Linda DeGraf

May 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 5)

Greetings dear friends ~ Having recently participated in a weeklong gathering to explore the Enneagram in Motion, I have been pondering the nature of soul, transformation, and the interdependence necessarily at the heart of the evolution of human consciousness. Russ Hudson describes the inner work of the Enneagram as profoundly different from working on our "issues" so that we can become a better caterpillar. A caterpillar perseverates on devouring leaves and molting into a bigger, yet still identical, version of itself. One cannot grow wings and fly, however, without first entering a chrysalis and allowing the known self to dissolve into something new, capable of participating in the complex web of interrelationships at the heart of the cycle of life. Yet how much difference can our tiny, individual metamorphoses really make? I cannot begin to fathom how the beating of one butterfly’s wings could possibly cause even a whisper of a ripple on the other side of the globe.

April 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 4)

Greetings dear friends ~ In a little corner of my garden, I noticed bright green slender crocus leaves pushing their way up through the crusted brown earth. They steadfastly emerged still capped with dry clods of dirt and endured the unsettling vagaries of freezing nights and late season snowfall—a wintery spring after a spring-like winter. Our spirits, too, need lifting—need to emerge, become unbound, push up toward the light. We need to nurture a sense of wonder for if we stay buried in gloom we chance missing opportunities for awakening and for gratitude. Sometimes I find myself so immersed in worry for what might be lost, undone, unraveled that I fail to understand and appreciate what is here right now in front of me. To live with an open heart, to live with a sense of awe, doesn't mean we are blind to suffering or pain or fear, only that we also see the blessings all around us—the sacred gifts of life, love, and beauty.

March 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ In this period of cacophonous town hall meetings and bombardment of the senses with advertising, social media, and rhetoric, we as a society seem to have lost the art and discipline of listening. Even if we hear voices amid the noise, it is difficult to open ourselves to whatever may be said rather than pre-judging or selectively listening. Yet if we cannot listen to each other, how can we understand or learn from each other much less work together toward the common good? And if we neglect to practice active listening, how much are we missing in other contexts as well? What waits to be heard not just within our relationships but within our hearts, within our souls, and within our world?

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February 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 2)

Dear Friends ~ In this troubled and troubling world we are continually forced to choose sides or else risk indifference or complicity by virtue of inaction. But taking sides also perpetuates a society of winners and losers, of "us vs. them." How can one seek peace and inclusivity and at the same time work for justice when working for justice means choosing sides and standing in opposition? How can one love one's enemies and fight against their actions without fighting against them? We need a world characterized by tolerance and respect toward all whether they are our faith or not, whether they are our gender or not, whether they are our color or heritage or ethnicity or not, whether they are our nationality or background or not, and also whether they are in our political camp or not. We need to be a people that will not be governed by hate ~ either from within ourselves or from without.

January 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 1)

Dear Friends ~ As we welcome 2017, saying "Happy New Year" may feel a bit trite and hollow in this troubled world. Yet in a recently published collection of songs, Carrie Newcomer reminds us to hold on to what sustains us:

"The shadows of this world will say—There's no hope why try anyway?
But every kindness large or slight—shifts the balance toward the Light...
When justice seems in short supply, lean in toward the Light."

The only way to deepen this moment into something more meaningful is to use this transition for reflection—to cultivate gratitude for all we have been given and to ponder anew why we are here and what we are meant to be doing. How will we slip through the doorway into a new year? What is the next step we are called to take, the work we are meant to do? Whatever it is, know that you carry with you the love and blessings of this circle of friends and the everlasting presence of the One that sustains us all.

December 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 11)

Dear Friends ~ Standing at the edge of an abyss is no way to contemplate the coming new year. Yet that is how my heart feels, as though the earth has shaken beneath our feet and split asunder. I am reminded of a conversation in a television show of my youth — a teenage African-American tries to talk to his white English teacher — he says she's got "white folks' blues." She expects the world to be good and just and fair and therefore is distraught when faced with a different reality, whereas he has spent his whole life without those illusions and knows life is a struggle. A friend shared recently that he has chosen to pick up some Lenten disciplines again (despite it not being Lent) as a way of caring for his soul so as not to fall into depression or give in to despair. Jack Kornfield says in BUDDHA'S LITTLE INSTRUCTION BOOK, "Whatever we cultivate in times of ease, we gather as strength for times of change." Animals gather what they need to survive the winter and so must we.

October 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 9)

Dear Friends ~ As I write, the wind stirs leaves barely tinged with autumn color as a steady rain soaks into the earth so recently parched by summer’s sun. On the cusp of seasonal change, the land seems poised between fecundity and hibernation. So we too live our lives poised between action and contemplation, in that silent space of longing, expectation, and hope. Wisdom is both a mystic’s way of being in that sacred space and a gift of the spirit that we seek to cultivate. According to psychologists, wisdom "involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life...and it confers a sense of balance." -- from "All About Wisdom" at Psychology Today.com

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September 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 8)

Greetings Friends ~ How much of the turmoil seething all around us comes from masks put on to hide deep-seated fears—fear of losing control, fear of being discounted or abandoned, fear of difference, fear of not enough to go around, fear of change, fear of death? The insistent, brash voices that would stir up our fears, playing on our insecurities; and the unpredictable, violent actions of those that relish our terror—both feed on and corrupt our sense of vulnerability. Now is the time for courage, for honestly acknowledging our fears so that they can become bridges rather than walls. The fearful heart cannot engage; the anxieties that keep us awake at night close off the very oxygen we need to breathe. What if bringing our own fears out into the open could disarm the fear and anger coming our way from others? What if our vulnerabilities could teach us to overcome "fight or flight" with compassion?

July-August 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 7)

In a time of mass shootings, refugee crises, and environmental degradation it is hard to speak of the need for art and creativity. One wonders what, if anything, they have to do with changing the heartbreak of the world or serving a greater good than personal growth and pleasure. Yet why is it that those who would control and bully us feel threatened by musicians and artists and poets? How can we envision a better way if not by searching deep within the imagination and stirring creative reservoirs into a provocative, life-giving "re-presentation" of the world and our place in it? It seems important to tap these wellsprings for the sake of our own souls' transformation. But it is also time to send these creative energies out into the world because we are in desperate need for resistance, for saying no to death and destruction, for boldly setting forth an agenda of life and love and respect.

June 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 6)

Dear friends ~ Marveling at how very young children accomplish the astonishing feat of language acquisition makes me wonder about the power and meaning of words. The nature of being human is that we need to shape thought into language. The way we use language with each other can either hurt or heal, confound or connect. As inadequate as they may be, words help us attach names to meanings, express and share ideas, and circle round questions together. How do words in turn shape our ideas and beliefs? What does it mean to use culturally laden or gender specific names for God? Do they help us to understand more about God or about ourselves? If various world religions have different words for names of God—the Compassionate One, the Light, the Truth, the Eternal, the Creator—is this more a matter of form than substance, language than meaning? And what is the Word we listen for in the Silence?

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