May 2019 (Vol. XXXII, No. 5)

Dear Friends ~ To everything there is a season— a time to work and a time to play, a time to strive and a time to rest, a time to set one's "eyes on the prize" and a time to pause and notice the wildflowers and others along the way. In our culture, achievement and productivity are valued as the benchmarks of success. If the answer to the question, "What do you do?" cannot be summed up in a job title or a listing of accomplishments, you are left feeling somehow hollow or having been dismissed as insignificant. Yet one can be just as negligent or distracted or untransformed in the busyness of work as in mundane pursuits or the ordinary activities of daily life. If the magic of music lies partly in the silent spaces between notes, the gift of grace may lie in the Sabbath moments between long hours of work and activity.

While the music was being played

We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage,
which had a serious purpose at that end,
and the thing was to get to that thing at that end.

Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you're dead.
But we missed the point the whole way along.
It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to
dance while the music was being played.
~ Alan Watts
The Way of Zen
By Alan W. Watts

The sacred is not in heaven or far away

The sacred is not in heaven or far away. It is all around us, and small human rituals can connect us to its presence.
~ Alma Luz Villanueva
Gracias: New Poems
By Alma Luz Villanueva

God is playful

Too easily are we inclined to imagine that God created this world for a purpose. We are so caught up in purpose that we would feel more comfortable if God shared our preoccupation with work. But God plays. The birds in a single tree are sufficient proof that God did not set out with a divine no-nonsense attitude to make a creature that would perfectly achieve the purpose of a bird. What could that purpose be I wonder? There are titmice, juncos, and chickadees; woodpeckers, gold finches, starlings and crows. The only bird God never created is the no-nonsense bird. As we open our eyes and hearts to God's creation, we quickly perceive that God is playful, a God of leisure.
~ from GRATEFULNESS, THE HEART OF PRAYER by Br. David Steindl-Rast

Living with attention

Each age has its own task...Our hermitage is the act of living with attention in the midst of things: amid the rhythms of work, and love, the bath with the child, the endlessly growing paperwork, the ever-present likelihood of war, the necessity for taking action to help the world. For us, a good spiritual life is permeable and robust. It faces things squarely, knowing the smallest moments are all we have, and that even the smallest moment is full of happiness.
~ from THE LIGHT INSIDE THE DARK by John Tarrant

Holy Leisure

In our culture we are trained to be doers and makers, not dreamers and seers. So I make an appeal for "holy leisure," a leisure that makes us more human. Holy leisure involves contemplation...the personal pursuit of meaning. Leisure allows for the contemplation that will bring meaning and energy to our lives and room within ourselves for holy reading, gentle awareness, and deep reflection.
~ Keith Snow

Elected silence

Elected silence, sing to me
and beat upon my whorled ear,
pipe me to pastures still and be
the music I care to hear.
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

Singleness of heart

I sense Lizzie's presence beckoning me away from the only socially acceptable addiction of our time: workaholism. She asks me to stop and look at what I am doing, at why I am so busy, at who I am and what it is that keeps me so mindlessly driven and competitive. It is not hard work that she questions, for she knows all too well the value of labor, but she invites me into awareness and honest self-scrutiny. Perhaps it is because I have chosen to live with a divided heart that the idolatry of being busy has claimed me. Perhaps it is Lizzie's faithful attention to what matters most – her focused, un-fussy attentiveness – that makes me think of her as I ponder the meaning of singleness of heart.
~ Elizabeth J. Canham in "Grandmother Wisdom," Weavings, Mar/Apr, 2003

Trust ourselves to the hidden

Hard work and drawing up plans are helpful, but not always. We do not build our souls as much as we find them along the way. We discover them by accident as much as by intention. There is a time to take our lives in hand, but there is also a time to take our hands off our lives, and to leave what seems apparent and trust ourselves to the hidden.

~ from ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE by Marv and Nancy Hiles

Allow life to evolve

Mystery is what happens to us when we allow life to evolve rather than having to make it happen all the time...There is something holy-making about simply presuming that what happens to us in any given day is sent to awaken our souls to something new: another smell, a different taste, a moment when we allow ourselves to lock eyes with a stranger, to smile a bit, to nod our heads in greeting.
~ from THE GIFT OF YEARS by Joan Chittister

Journeys bring power and love back into you

Journeys bring power and love
back into you. If you can't go somewhere,
move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light,
always changing and you change
when you explore them.
~ Rumi

The interior place where we experience God

The interior place where we experience God is the same kind of place, and as real, as the place where we experience music and poetry.
~ Karen Armstrong

Sabbath

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.

~ Judith Shulevitz

April 2019 (Vol. XXXII, No. 4)

Dear Friends ~ Spring, with all its re-greening, heralds stirrings of hope. Whether you see the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature as reciprocal or destructive, whether you feel despair at the impending sixth extinction or confidence that we can restore our connection to one of mutual respect and healing; the earth still waits, still sends forth green shoots, still pulses and burbles and sings. Nature can be our teacher, our portal into wonder, a practice of communion rather than dominion, a path of encounter and reckoning with our true self. Above all spring is a season rife with the promise of renewal, a chance at transformation. Step outside, turn your face to the warming sun, listen for the song of the goldfinch—and begin again.

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Fragrant spring of our creation

It sometimes seems to me that holiness, the quintessence of holiness, is as elusive as that strange fragrance in the air which heralds spring. We cannot define precisely where the scent lies, nor analyze exactly the color of the bird, nor yet assign to an invisible musical scale the plaintive bleat of the lamb, nor to a paint box the fleeting blue of the sky: a stirring in the blood, an impulse toward adventure, rough moorland, woodland paths... No, holiness is not to be defined. It is a living, glorious rebirth...an active condition, not a struggle with or against self, but a struggle for self, to bring oneself back, back to that pure and fragrant spring of our creation.
~ from IKONS by John Tavener and Mother Thekla

Nature heals and gives strength

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray, where nature heals and gives strength to body and soul alike.
~ John Muir
Wilderness Essays
By John Muir

To honor the sacred

The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth. Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and the body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them... To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible. To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.
~ from THE FIFTH SACRED THING by Starhawk

Yields a new thought with every petal

The exceeding beauty of the earth, in her splendor of life, yields a new thought with every petal.
~ Richard Jefferies

All of God's creatures

All of God's creatures have divine knowledge within, even the tiniest ant, and we're all trying to get in step and march to the Divine Music.
~ from TALES OF THE HASIDIM by Martin Buber

The beauty of the earth

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
~ Rachel Carson

Take heart with the day

Every day is a fresh beginning.
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, in spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.
~ Susan Coolidge

Growing in love

Gardening can provide an opportunity to slow down, be still, breathe, and connect with another form of life. For me, it is an experience of communion; I become one with this precious life in my garden and it heightens my experience of love in the world. And that is what spirituality is all about: growing in love.
~ from GROWING MYSELF by Judith Handelsman
Growing Myself:A Spiritual Journey Through Gardening
By Judith Handelsman, Judith Handlesman

Quiet passage

All around us, life arises and decays in complicated, in-between spaces. The human challenge is to make a similar confident, quiet passage through the paradoxes of life.
~ Rick Bass
For a Little While
By Rick Bass

Your soul is alive

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.

~ Eleanor Duse
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