Linda DeGraf

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

Read Email Newsletter

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?

May 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 5)

Dear friends ~ On the little patch of earth where I live, frogs are courting in the pond, the fresh yellow-green of new spring leaves sparkles with sunlight, and little shoots and buds unfurl before our eyes to greet warm days. Having come to gardening relatively late in life, I never quite understood the oft quoted adage, "one is nearer to God in the garden than anywhere else on earth." Not that I agree even now to its ranking highest, yet there is something about tending plants and attending to the fecundity of the earth in spring that infuses the spirit with gratitude and wonder. That life should spring forth from the cold, hard, seemingly parsimonious ground of winter bespeaks of hope and joy and a softening of heart. What better way to contemplate the powerful creative life force at work and play within this hallowed ground? How can we not turn our faces toward the light just as seedlings bend toward the sun?

April 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 4)

Dear friends ~ Spring is the time for throwing open the windows, shaking out the rugs, clearing out the dust and grime of a long winter spent largely indoors. Many of us strive to organize, de-clutter, and downsize in an attempt to simplify our lives and perhaps to stem the pervasive onslaught of consumerism and acquisition. It is in the bitterest cold of winter, when the forecasters predict single-digit temperatures, that my husband chooses to sleep outside with naught but a sleeping bag between him and the elements. Why? To see the stars, to feel alive, to remember who he is and listen to the heartbeat of the world. After all these years I can still remember a dream I had in my youth—in cream-colored rooms of smoothly curving walls a zephyr wind blew away bags full of stuff like tumbleweeds, leaving behind blessed space pregnant with luminous blue, the lightness of being, utter stillness, and a deeply profound sense of wonder.

March 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ The world we perceive with our senses is resplendent with texture and color and form. I am in love with this tangible world–the one of weight and substance, the one I can hold and stand upon, see and touch. And yet the iridescent blue in a butterfly’s wing comes not from pigment but from the way light bounces off myriad tiny scales, one wavelength converging on another, the unseen world creating color in the perceived world. There is a pulse beneath the flesh and blood, a resonance even within the stone, that cannot be explained. The alchemy of unseen interactions is at play and we humans need help in order to perceive them. Perhaps that is why music penetrates so deeply into our souls–because it is so much more than the wood of the instrument, the vibration of the strings, the touch of fingertips. A doorway through our senses into mystery, it can take us beyond everyday perception into the realm of feeling and of wonder.

February 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 2)

Dear friends ~ In February the holiday calendar directs our hearts toward love. What the world needs now, however, is not the amorous affection peddled in Hallmark valentines but the deep down, soul-searching agape love of attentive care, healing, and compassion. As Adrienne Rich would phrase it, we need to cultivate "honorable relationships" - relationships forged out of truth, respect, and integrity. But how do we get there? The cultural and political landscape of this country has set the bar so low for cultivating any kind of meaningful relationships that we need to relearn what it truly means to interact with each other honorably. In my teaching years, the most essential lessons were not about knowledge of the mind but matters of the heart—learning how to treat each other—how to love and to be loved.

Read Email Newsletter

January 2016 (Vol. XXIX, No. 1)

Dear friends, In one way of reckoning, January marks the turning of the year. A time for looking back, looking ahead, and most importantly looking inward. The crushing inequities and violence of our times, the hostile rhetoric, the choking fear-mongering and intolerance, threaten to lead us once more down a path of despair. If you've ever been out for a walk just after a heavy snowfall blankets the earth and garments the trees, you know the hushed magic, the grace-filled pause that fills the space with light. It's as if for that brief moment the snow beseeches us to see the world with fresh eyes. "Stop in your tracks, cease chattering and crashing about. Yes, there are bare and broken branches, gnawed bones, littered paths, starving birds and hunting hawks. But I have another world in view. If only you can be still and imagine it." Now is the time to act, not out of fear or judgment or despair, but out of the stillness of the Spirit and wisdom of the Light.

Syndicate content