February 2020 (Vol. XXXIII, No. 2)

Dear Friends ~ Many years ago, I asked Fr. Aiden, the abbot at St. Anselm's Benedictine Monastery in Washington D.C., "What do you do at the monastery?" Aiden's reply has stayed with me: "We fall and get up. We fall and get up. We fall and get up again." That has also been my experience with trying to establish a daily practice of "centering prayer." For many years, silence was NOT a friend to me: it was a daily humiliation of seeing and bearing the dispersion of my own inner being. Daily sitting was like taking a daily bath in the waters of my own inadequacy and inner contradictions. My working definition of "waking up" was seeing my sleep. I may still be the world's worst contemplative, but gradually I began to soften to this lawful falling away from myself and getting back up, not just while sitting on the morning chair, but as I went throughout the day.

Don't go back to sleep

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep!
~ Rumi

Clearing

Do not try to serve
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song
that is yours alone to sing
falls into your open cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to the world
so worthy of rescue.
~ Martha Postlethwaite

To arrive where you are

To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
~ from FOUR QUARTETS (East Coker), by T. S. Eliot

To see and know my inattention

I believe I need to pay attention, when in fact I need to see and know my inattention.

As I am, I cannot keep from being lost in life. This is because I do not believe that I become lost and do not see that I like being taken. I do not know what it means "to be taken."

The first effort is to awake, in order to see ourselves as we are in our sleep. We believe that to awake is to enter into an entirely different life, which will have nothing in common with the one we lead. But, in fact, awaking means, above all, to awake to ourselves as we are, to see and feel our sleep.
~ from THE REALITY OF BEING by Jeanne de Salzmann

As soon as I finish this sentence

Why do I flee from you? My days and nights pour through me like complaints and become a story I forgot to tell. Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
~ from THE KINGDOM OF ORDINARY TIME by Marie Howe

At the center of our being

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak God's name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely ... I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.
~ from CONJECTURES OF A GUILTY BYSTANDER by Thomas Merton

Poem to Myself

Sink down into the center of each flowering moment.
What if the moment does not flower?

Sink down into the center of the moment.
What if I can't find the center?

Sink down into the moment.
What if the moment is gone?

Sink down.
What if I can't sink down?

Then be still.

The moment will find you.
The center will surround you.
The flower will bloom within you.

~ from MOVING DAY, by Rob Soley

The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life

all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,

those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections

and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say
holy
holy.
~ Pesha Joyce Gertler

Psalm 139

The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.

~ Psalm 139

Our real work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~ by Wendell Berry in Standing By Words

January 2020 (Vol. XXXIII, No. 1)

Dear Friends, We stand on a threshold, peering at a new year, "full of things that have never been" (Teilhard de Chardin); an in-between space, suspended between what we think we know and worlds we cannot see, the ringing now before what comes next. We come to thresholds like these hauling courage with trembling hands. Will we step through to peril? to transformation? Sages say both. Yet we are not bereft. We can catch light for the journey, provisions for the road.

Wisdom awaits at the threshold

Resplendent and eternal is Wisdom,
readily perceived by those who listen
in the Silence of the heart.
Wisdom hastens to make Herself known;
She is available to all who love and seek Her,
who awakens Her from within
will not be disappointed;
for Wisdom awaits at the threshold.

~ from WALKING WITH WISDOM by Nan Merrill

Now the old has already passed away

Now the old has already passed away<
But the new is too new to be born today
So I'm throwing out seeds on the winter snow<
As the cold wind begins to blow
Standing here on a new threshold

I can see a warm dim light in the window...

I pass from mystery to mystery, so I won't lie
I don't know what happens when people die
but I hope that I see you...

In the distance I see a glow

There's a light, there's a light, there's light
In the window.
~ from "A Light in the Window" by Carrie Newcomer

Come slowly to a place

I was beginning to realize that you must come slowly to a place; wait a little before feverishly resorting to guidebooks...Place has a mighty tongue of its own.
~ from ON PILGRIMAGE by J. Lash

A preexisting pattern

Whether you know it or not, you were born to have a rendezvous with destiny; your journey toward it has already begun. But my people make a distinction between destiny and fate. We don't think we are born with a "fate" that impels us to act out some script composed by a higher hand, but rather that each of us has a destiny, a preexisting pattern, which, in our hearts, we wish one day to fulfill.
~ from THE MAGIC CIRCLE by Katherine Neville

Looking in two directions

How do we hold both the magnificence and tragedy of the world, as if we stand at a threshold with Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, looking in two directions? ...How do we find the way if we can't see around the bend? ...In our time of disturbance and radical change, we are crossing a threshold, a portal, or an unseen bridge from one world to another. It could be said that the bridge is either collapsing beneath us, or being made as we walk together...

~ from WILD FAITH by Geneen Marie Haugen (Garrison Institute blog entry)

Simply to begin

Beginning well or beginning poorly, what is important is simply to begin....Beginning is difficult, and our procrastination is a fine ever-present measure of our reluctance in taking that first close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness...It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is...
~ from CONSOLATIONS by David Whyte

Old Crane Woman

If you creep out down to the river in the light of a full moon, you'll see her there, Old Crane Woman. She'll be standing on one leg, still as can be, and you'll know her by her frayed grey and white dress and her long, thin arms with the sharp, sticking-out elbows. She'll be staring into the river, for Old Crane Woman knows that inspiration comes always at the side of the water, there on the edge, in that troubling threshold place between one element and another.
~ from GREY HERON NIGHTS 2 by Sharon Blackie

This uncontainable night

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change...

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
~ from SONNETS TO ORPHEUS, Part Two, XXIX by Rainer Maria Rilke

Inner light is not hidden

Inner light is not hidden/
Myriad openings lead to it.
In passing from darkness to light,
One moves freely between eternity
and now.

If this be but true,
I have no fear.
Yet myriad seem the hazards
of the journey.
~ Frederick W. Lord

Every Door

Not knowing when the Dawn will come,
I open every Door.
~ Emily Dickinson

A space in which both worlds meet

Anyone who has probed the inner life, who has sat in silence long enough to experience the stillness of the mind behind its apparent noise is faced with a mystery. Apart from all the outer attractions of life in the world, there exists at the center of human consciousness something quite satisfying and beautiful in itself, a beauty without features. The mystery is not so much that these two dimensions exist – an outer world and the mystery of the inner world – but that we are suspended between them, as a space in which both worlds meet ... as if the human being is the meeting point, the threshold between two worlds.
~ from THE KNOWING HEART by Kabir Helminski

November/December 2019 (Vol. XXXII, No. 10)

Dear Friends ~ The expectant hush awaiting a baby's first breath, the temporary cessation of wind in the eye of a hurricane, the awkward pause in a conversational misstep, the profound stillness of woods blanketed in snow— there are so many kinds of silence. Silence can be sad or sublime, scary or sustaining; a fretful silence soaked in fear and anxiety or a silence pregnant with hope, expectancy, longing. Beyond, or perhaps within, these is the Silence of mystery, of luminous moments, and of communion.

Unembarrassed to receive the incredible gift

Now let your great and wise and powerful
be as the poor and foolish little ones:
unembarrassed to receive the incredible gift,
and not knotted in guilt over your lack of worth,
and not struggling to "earn" what cannot be deserved,
but just simply, joyfully accepting of all
that is given so humbly and gladly in Love.
~ from ENCOUNTER AT BETHLEHEM by Jean Jones Andersen
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