“The Art of Precious Scars”

 

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Explosion

DANGER
Sizzles between air molecules
In spaces intended for patience and love.
Two-year-old Alice, impatient for food
Punctuates the room with a crescendo of piercing cries.
You are in the kitchen cooking a dinner that refuses to cook…
The Protector is away on retreat.
My seven year-old empathic brain is on high alert
Pleaser Stand-in Protector
I seek a distraction to divert the explosion.

From my place under the high chair
I make faces at Alice. It has worked before
BUT
As the high chair is bumped the milk sprouts wings

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NOW?”

Your behemoth bulk looming over me
You snatch me up and carry me to my bedroom

Do you know how terrified and shamed I am
As you pull down my pants
EXPOSING
My tiny seven-year-old bottom?

Off comes the belt
Which leaves angry welts on
The seven-year-old
Who just wanted to keep the peace.

THE PROTECTOR
Never left you in charge after that.

Reconciliation

My fifty-five-year-old empathic brain had evolved
By the time of your visit.
The Protector came first on another bright Autumn day
After she died. “Honey, I’m alright,” she said.
You came many years later, having also evolved.

I lay on the couch before a roaring fire
Pretending to grade papers
While Beethoven’s Ninth wove its magic.
The chorus intoned Shiller’s “Ode to Joy”
And I became the music.
You came to me at the fireplace
As I stoked and the chorus proclaimed

Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father reside.

“Honey, I do love you so much. Forgive me.”
Came the gentle whisper in my ear.

I wonder if Beethoven ever heard those words
From his abusive father.

Kintsugi

Sixty -six years later
The fissure gleams
With the gold
Of healing experiences
Whole gift to fellow fractured
Pilgrims

© Rita H Kowats 2017

 

 

For a poignant description of Kintsugi go here

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Mantras As Tools For Spiritual Growth

 

 

It should come as no surprise that much of what you read here has already been written elsewhere, for there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Thank you to the mystics and wonderers who go before me. What is new for each of us is the aha moment when we see a truth for the first time or when we peel away another layer so as to understand at greater depth.

For a few years I have used this mantra to stop the human flow of judgment and criticism,”God alive and we thrive.” If god is alive in the conversation, we thrive instead of being dragged down in a cloud of negative energy. I have found the mantra quite helpful until the other day when I had to deal with the incessant noise that accompanies city living and was given a new layer of meaning. I recalled a video of a Buddhist nun who used a bell to call her to mindfulness. She alluded to feeling so frustrated and impatient with the noise that kept her from mindfulness, and substituted the noise itself as the bell calling her to mindfulness. I began to consider the noise outside as a call to mindfulness and a different word came up, the word “presence.” My mantra became “Breathing in presence I release irritation. Breathing in presence I release unrest.” After a while the noise slipped away and I was gifted with a few moments of connection with the divine…much more satisfying than fixating on the noise of garbage trucks uploading!

Subsequently, other uses of the mantra have presented themselves to me. One day I fixated on the possibility of someone’s interference in my life. That negative energy did me no good at all, but this mantra transported me out of it, “Breathing in presence I release mistrust. Breathing in presence I release fear.” When we live in divine presence there is simply no space for negative energy. When we invite presence we are inviting the divine presence that lives in the other person to share space in our being.  It is like greeting someone with “Namaste, I greet the god in you.”

I invite you to try this mantra and share in a comment that will give all of us tools for our spiritual growth. Blessings be yours.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/garbage-truck-clip-art-10415641

 

Release the Walled-In God

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For centuries in November Christians have celebrated the feast of Christ the King. And for centuries this feast about a kindom “not of this world” has been entrapped in the trappings of an earthly kingdom characterized by wealth and domination. The image of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey is rarely preached. We like the image of kings and queens. We feel comfortable with it. Why else would our friends in Great Britain be placing bets on the gender and name of the expected royal? 

You have read in these posts before a quote from Meister Eckhart, the great medieval Dominican mystic,”I pray god that he quit me of god.” May we replace these false, self-serving images of god with images such as the “drifting mist that brought forth the morning,” suggests Rainier Maria Rilke in this lovely poem.

We must not portray you in king’s robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.
Once again from the old paintboxes
we take the same gold for scepter and crown
that has disguised you through the ages.
Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls.
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.

Rainer Maria Rilke, I, 4
in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey

 

Photo Credit: http://www.catholictradition.org/Christ/cking-feast2.htm

Welcome to Listen to Your Life

 

I Invite you all to travel over to https://listeningtomylife.blog/blog/

Here you can drink in and savor the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, teacher and soulmate.  This is a recent offering:

 

The Sage Must Travel Light

A friend sent me this poem today and I wanted to share it with you.  This is the spiritual journey for me–letting go of all those old stories that keep me from living in peace.  I love the image of the backpack.  Getting rid of those old emotions that hold us in a tight knot.  Filling our backpacks with compassion brings forth a sense of connection.  May it be so!!

            The Sage Must Travel Light
    Youth can carry a heavy load day after day
        Without noticing the damaging effects.
        But the sage must lay down the burden.
                    Resentments, regrets,
                        Injuries, slights,
            Grudges and disappointments
                Are much too cumbersome
    For a person of wisdom and contentment.
                The sage must travel light.
            There is a backpack in the mind
        Which over the years, has become
                Filled with rocks and stones.
    You do not have to carry them anymore.
                You can empty your pack
               And carry only compassion
                From one day to the next.
                        William Martin

And Now the Damn Dandelions

 

 

(for Caron)

As a scruffy six-year-old I loved to sprawl on the parking strip under the Hawthorne trees Dad planted and pick dandelions to string a necklace for Mom. I’m sure the people riding past on the city bus were quite amused at the sight.  I wore  rolled-up baggy jeans, orange Mr. Magoo glasses, and tight Richard Hudnut Quick Home Perm curls.  When satisfied with my masterpiece, I ran up the stairs and through the backyard to the kitchen screen door, which banged repeatedly behind me like a glorious drum roll announcing my grand gift.  “Oh, Honey, it’s beautiful!  Yellow is my favorite color, you know,”  Mom exclaimed with every new necklace.

As a budding teenage beauty I lounged on the parking strip with friends hoping that Billy would just happen to walk by.  Right.  His paper delivery route took him by my house at the same time every summer afternoon.  To wile away the time we plucked the leaves off dandelions to the tune of “He loves me, he loves me not.”

And now, the damn dandelions!  They served me well in younger, carefree days.  in adulthood they are an eyesore, a nuisance. We regard them as useless weeds which overtake our carefully manicured grass, buying into the lawn culture marketed by herbicide companies.

What if we regarded dandelions as we do the weeds in our carefully manicured souls?  Let them grow among the virtues while we train them. We could treat them like questions living into answers, as Rilke says. The result just might be a more human landscape.

 

photo credit: Fire Engine Red <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22620629@N05/25729346044″>Dandelions DP</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

In Spring

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in spring
infant leaves emerge
tentatively from buds on stark white winter-limbs
like tentative souls
emerging from the dark night
enthusiastic
expectant
leaning
into resurrection.

© rita h kowats 4-7-18

 

In meditation on this magnificent Rilke poem given to me by my soul-friend, I realize that it is both an echo and a fulfillment of my own attempt to grasp the depths of our spiritual journey.

 

God speaks to each of us as she makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame,
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

Rilke’s Book of Hours

 

Between Seasons

 

 

 …when I lean over the chasm of myself—
it seems my God is dark and like a web:

a hundred roots silently drinking.
This is the ferment I grow out of.

from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
trans by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy I, 3

 

I live in the Seattle area where spring is a mixture. One hour we are treated to sun and blossoms, blue sky, mountains and shimmering water. Literally, the next hour we are plunged into gloom and doom, whipped about by wind and drenched by an onslaught of rain, hail and snow. Natives, accepting this show as a struggle for primacy between winter and spring, don their coats and await the next hour.

I write on the Monday after Easter and the sun and blue sky reign. The blossoming trees surrounding my home call me to emerge from my writing-table and walk. Some traditions call this Emmaus Day and the expectation is to go walking where one can “meet Jesus along the way” and break bread with him, as described in the gospel story.

Our spring weather lately has awakened me to the experience of many who are stuck in the hour of doom and gloom surrounded by blossoms and blue sky and the expectation that they just get on with it and move into that hour of new life. They may be asking, “What is wrong with me that I cannot celebrate,” and they feel strangely out-of-place in this Eastertide.

Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, recently aired interviews with persons who experience depression and who professionally work with persons who straddle emotional seasons:

On Being https://onbeing.org/programs/parker-palmer-andrew-solomon-and-anita-barrows-the-soul-in-depression/
I found the podcast inspiring, comforting and helpful. If you do as well, be sure to pass it on.

May the promise of Easter enfold you,
Rita

 

 

Photo Credit: jcolman N00/3475838105″>The Olympic Mountains in morning sunlight via photopin (license)

Good Friday 2018

 

 

. . . Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid—
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the
earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. [II, 3]

Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey

Larry Payne Was A Man: In Memoriam

 

One day In February 1968 two sanitation workers,  Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death in a garbage packer in Memphis Tennessee.  They were African American men working for starvation wages and under dangerous conditions:

From Taylor Branch’s On Canaan’s Edge (ISBN 978-064857121), page 684:

“It was a gruesome chore to retrieve the two crushed bodies from the garbage packer and pronounce them dead at John Gaston Hospital. Echol Cole and Robert Walker soon became the anonymous cause that diverted Martin Luther King to Memphis for his last march. City flags flew at half-mast for them, but they never were public figures like Lisa Marie Presley, whose birth at 5:01 PM was being announced. . . . Cole and Walker would not be listed among civil rights martyrs, nor studied like Rosa Parks as the catalyst for a new movement. Their fate was perhaps too lowly and pathetic.”
For the sanitation workers in Memphis enough was enough.  They began organizing a union and marched for their rights on March 28, 1968,  Dr. King joined them.  Frustration erupted in rioting and looting, and one person was killed, a child who became a man that day:  Larry Payne.  He had come to the March with friends.  He was sixteen years old.  Stories differ, but one historian reports that after having left the March, later in the day, a police officer shot and killed Larry in front of his housing project.  He was unarmed.  The officer has not been prosecuted.  Very recently, the FBI has reopened this cold case which was lost in the event of Dr. King’s assassination.
The sanitation workers carried signs that simply stated, “I am a man.”…not a “boy,” not a “nigger.”…A MAN.  On the anniversary of his death today, I want to remember Larry and his family who still grieves.  I remember all the sanitation workers who sacrificed so much to advance the cause of civil rights even in the face of Jim Crow.  The exclusion of any person diminishes our humanity.  I hope that we can intentionally develop spiritual practices which create space for all.

Start Here For More Information on the Memphis Strike:

mlk-­kpp01.­stanford.­edu/­index.­php/­encyclopedia/­encyclopedia/­enc_memphis_sani­tation_workers_s­trike_1968/­

Ruth Uprooted

 

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But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”. Ruth 1:16

 

Imagine this. Your father is eighty years old and his wife of 55+ years has just entered a Memory Care Unit. Every visit to his wife is a painful death. The added stress of learning how to manage his household and care for his own aging body is quickly depleting him of energy.

Like the biblical Ruth you hear a call that is more than duty. The call to loving compassion sounds clearly and insistently across Badlands and Cascades: Uproot. Go. Your people shall be my people. So you leave everything to make a new home with your father.

Who does such a thing? I am in awe of the courage and aware of the challenges. May I someday learn to be this selfless.

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The Call
vibrates along every vein in every root
pulsing and pulling
tapping the primal tattoo heard by Ruth before you:
GO

You scoop up your scattered roots,

clutch them close and set out.
Without control
Without guarantee
With trust.
Welcome, sister.

                                                     ©Rita H. Kowats March 23, 2018

 

The Badlands Photo Credit: Thomas James Caldwell <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81643710@N00/15497697471″>Erosive Effects</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Cascade Mountains Photo Credit: jcolman N00/3475838105″>The Olympic Mountains in morning sunlight via photopin (license)

Tree: Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-trunk-green-leaf-tree-beside-body-of-water-762679/

Adaptation: In Gratitude for Stephen Hawking

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Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
— 2005 “A Briefer History of Time”
Stephen Hawking

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Adaptations of the Soul