“The Art of Precious Scars”

 

bowl-1

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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“Unclench Yourself”: A Guided Meditation

Underwater Garden 34628416992_f03d5bba42_n

 

 

Unclench Yourself:  Guided Meditation

Listen to this gift from Marge Piercy.  Find the rhythm in your breathing as you take in the essence of her words.  Let feelings rise as they will.

Unclench yourself

Open, love, open.
I tell you we are able
I tell you we are able
now and then gently
with hands and feet
cold even as fish
to curl into a tangle
and grow a single hide,
slowly to unknit all other skin
and rest in flesh
and rest in flesh entire

Come all the way in, love,
it is a river
with a strong current
but its brown waters
will not drown you.

Let go.
Do not hold out your head.
The current knows the bottom
better than your feet can.
You will find
that in this river
we can breathe
we can breathe
and under water see
small gardens and bright fish
too tender
too tender
for the air.

Marge Piercy

Meditation

You are content to lie on the surface of the cobalt Maui ocean, cocooned in the embrace of warm trade winds, buoyant and safe. Relax and enjoy the carefree feeling of being carried aloft. Continue to synchronize your breathing with winds and waves.  In out in out.  Feel the warmth of the sun kiss your skin.  Breathe in out in out.

Now let your mind wander to regions below the ocean’s surface, to places less placid where fear warns you away.  Take some time now to explore those fears which threaten to take your breath away.  Name each one as you breathe in and let out the fear on the wave of your breath. In out in out.

You have now dared to leave the surface.  How is it for you down there?  What small gardens and bright fish do you see? Your breathing becomes deeper and flows evenly throughout every cell of your body.  You are the ocean.  As the fish is in the sea and the sea is in the fish, you are in the ocean and the ocean is in you.

Ever so gently now, let your body slowly float up to the surface as you continue to breathe. Breathing in I am whole.  Breathing out I release all fear.  Breathing in I am peace.  Breathing out I offer peace.

May it be so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Marine Explorer <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/71925535@N03/34628416992″>Red sea fan #marineexplorer</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Neuroplasticity and Spiritual Development

I recently read an article entitled “How To Draw Better.”  A few salient points made by the author, Jesse Miller, strike me as pertinent to spiritual development as well:

“Simply put, neuroplasticity means that our brains change their shape and structure as we learn new skills and information.

A scientific study into the development of drawing skills in students found that the best learners used a ‘strategic’ approach to learning. These students identified their weaknesses, and found tried-and-tested methods to practice and improve them. They also tracked the progress of their skills, and updated their practice methods accordingly.

Research has shown that the development of motor skills requires periods of rest between practices, when our brains can gather together and act on the information. Therefore it’s best to do this exercise little and often – practice it just once a day for as long as you can.

But recent studies into the neuroscience of creativity have found that looking at the works of others may indeed be essential to cultivating a creative mind.”

Surely, the soul, like the brain, is neuroplastic..or are the soul and brain one and the same?  In any case, the soul is constantly adapting.  Its development depends on spiritual practices.  It does not grow and thrive on prayer alone.

The soul needs quiet and solitude to create the environment in which the Spirit can work.

A person who desires to live deeply into her/his spiritual life would do well to delve into the writings of the mystics in diverse traditions and pull out spiritual practices that fit with their lifestyles and belief systems.

Learning to draw is similar to spiritual development. If you are intent on learning either skill you will both enjoy and benefit from reading this article:

https://www.jenreviews.com/how-to-draw-better/

 

“Know the Raw Silk, Hold the Uncut Wood”

raw silk on uncut wood

I have friends who are dealing with the worst of cancers and the death of a loved one.  Earthquakes, flooding, wars and hurricanes displace thousands of people. Yet, many of them endure. Not just endure. They endure creatively. How do they do it?

They learn these truths:

 

 

 

Photo Credits:  Raw silk- http://www.wormspit.com/degumming.htm; -wood_uncut_by_borysses.jpg

Returning to Presence: A Spiritual Practice

 

November tree

 

Sometimes we all get into an obsessive space over a perceived or real wrong done to us. Around and around, out and in our egos spin on the rim of that hurricane, covering the same territory ad nauseum even while we long to catch hold of the Eye where we can be drawn down into Presence for as long as that gift lasts.

Here are some tools I find helpful:

  • Keep a battery powered candle on throughout the time your ego spins out of control. It is a powerful symbol that through the open wound the light gets in (Thank you, Leonard Cohen.)
  • Between rants send loving kindness to the one who wounded you. Pour love like gold into their wound until it’s scar blinds with bling! Here is my version of it:

I surround you with divine light
May you be safe from harm
May you be happy and peaceful
May you be strong and healthy
May you take care of yourself with joy.

  • Call upon your angels and spirit guides to surround you and let pass into you and from you only that energy which is for the greatest good.
  • Cleanse your aura often with spritz spray or hands full of water, or burn sage. “Our thoughts and feelings have an electromagnetic reality and we should manifest wisely.” (source unknown)
  • Debrief once with one trusted person if you feel the need; repeated sessions with multiple persons tend to feed negative energy.

Mantra

Breathing in I am peace
Breathing out I release anger
Breathing in I am power
Breathing out I release dominance.
May it be so.

 

 

We Are The Song

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Louise Penny writes a mystery series about a detective in a mythical village in Quebec called Three Pines. I love these books especially for the author’s keen insight into human nature and her prose which flows like poetry. A favorite from the series is The Beautiful Mystery, about a murder in a monastery set deep into the wilds of Canada. Although hidden away, the monks are renowned for their near perfect expression of Gregorian chant. The abbot says, “Each of us individual notes. On our own, nothing. But together? Divine. We don’t just sing, we are the song.” The narrator says, “Gamache wondered if an equally important part of a chant wasn’t just the notes, but the space between them. The silence…They had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as “The Beautiful Mystery.”

 

The Beauriful Mystery

 

 

Photo Credit: https://www.smov.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=347&Itemid=717

A Request

Kids-at-DACA-rally

 

A Request

Drought-Weary
On the cusp of Autumn
We dare to beg:

Rain down
On brittle leaves already colored
Dull yellow, gold and red.
Rain down
On forest-fire smokescreen,
On eerie orange sun
Casting shadows in shades of pink.
Rain down on day-long dusk
Wash ashen scales from purblind eyes

Rain down
On the parched spirits
Of dreamers curled up into themselves
Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Remove the smokescreen of words
That splays their spirits waiting
To be sacrificed on the altar of American jobs.

Some relief
We beg.

© Rita h Kowats 9-7-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: J&V Photography

http://www.americabythenumbers.org/learn-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca/

La Vita Bella

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Along with millions of others I recently viewed a photo on Facebook of a group of elderly women at La Vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson, Texas.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey they sat in water up to their waists waiting to be rescued.  Not exactly the Beautiful Life they had expected.  One resident did craft work, others just sat and waited.  How does one keep one’s self stable and centered when fear stands watch outside the door threatening to knock it down?  As I’ve continued to ask myself that this week a memory of another tragedy caught my attention.

September 11, 2001.  An eerie, out-of-character silence had settled on my class of seventeen-year-olds as we waited for news of a sighted but now missing hijacked airplane. Two had already crashed into the twin towers.  A wail shattered the silence, emitted from a slumped-over manchild. “Where is my brother?  He isn’t answering his phone.  WHERE IS MY BROTHER?” How does one keep one’s self stable and centered when fear stands watch outside the door threatening to knock it down?

One day at a time, one choice at a time.  In another era we would have said one self-denial at a time.  As a young nun in pre-Vatican II days I wore sacrifice beads and pulled one down with each denial.  Please.  Meister Eckhart fiercely condemns such practices as blocks to birthing the real God in our lives.  I think we prepare for those times of no control with the practice of relinquishing control. By letting go of the need to control we become free and able to endure lack of control.  We can let go of our need to have the last word, the most stunning idea, the brilliant psychoanalysis of our neighbor. By living outside of  our egos we learn to live inside of ourselves where we are sparks of the divine.  If we address the fear which stands outside our door from that place, we know how to wait for the rescue.

For the Women of La Vita Bella

 

 

Cold water rising
Strong women reap peace past sown
Fear flees in its wake

rita h kowats 9-4-17

 

 

La Via Bella

 

 

Photo Credit Hands: creative commons https://pixabay.com

Photo CreditLa Vita Bella: Trudy Lampson via AP

 

 

 

Light and Shadow

“Salmon Berry Blossom on Black Water” Lynn Schooler

The impetus for this post was the beauty of our solar eclipse with its dramatic changes of light.

Chiaroscuro

  • :  pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color

  •  :  the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art:

  • the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

Merriam-Webster

 

Inside every living thing, no matter how beautiful, if opened fully enough was darkness. A Trick of the Light Louise Penny

 
If you have ever spent time in the company of the dark emotions, you too may have received subtle messages from friends and strangers alike that you were supposed to handle them and move on sooner instead of later. Some of us have even gotten the message that if we cannot do this on schedule, we may not have enough faith in God. If we had enough, we would be able to banish the dark angels from our beds, replacing them with the light angels of belief, trust, and praise. Greenspan [Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan] calls this “spiritual bypassing”—using religion to dodge the dark emotions instead of letting it lead us to embrace those dark angels as the best, most demanding spiritual teachers we may ever know…The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us: to wake us up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act.

Learning to Walk in the Dark Barbara Brown Taylor

 

Lynn Schooler photo used with permission

 

 

Doubt As A Path To Faith

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Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,  live along some distant day
into the answer.”

Time and again I have become aware of how profoundly connected my psychological self is to my spiritual self.  One day as I worked at my desk I began musing about my childhood and realized how keenly ashamed I was of the limitations of the little girl I had been.  I felt surrounded by spirit and as if pushed in the direction, I began walking downstairs to the little chapel in our convent.  I lay down on the floor before the altar in a fetal position and held “Margaret” like I had never held her before.  I promised to love and cherish her.  I thanked her for all the good things she brought to me.  I forgave her imperfection.  I offered her gifts to God.  At seventy-three years old I am finally living into those gifts.

I think that faith development is both spiritual practice and psychological practice.  My experience with Margaret was both a psychological practice of becoming conscious of my vulnerabilities and a spiritual practice of letting them go and resting in the divine.  When we have doubts about faith we sometimes go into “The Dark Night of the Soul,” described by the mystics.

“It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness….the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.”

Elkhart Tolle  See the full description here:   https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

So we begin to ask questions, often feeling guilty about it.  Some give up all faith in the end; for others doubt brings them closer to God.  Why this paradox? To paraphrase Jesus, whoever finds faith will lose it, and whoever loses their faith for my sake will find it.  After living in our faith for a while we take the risk of separating what is authentic about it from that which encloses us in a spiritual safety deposit box. If we come to a faith in which we have no need to be controlled, we come to an experience of the holy that is real and which has no need to control us.

Why do we sometimes feel closer to God when we doubt God?  Because we dare to seek the real God who lives outside the sometimes immature and unhealthy images we conjure.  Faith is not something that can be pinned down with very specific and concrete language.  Those who express faith are often mocked in our “enlightened” western society.  When we have begun to develop the right side of our brain we can see into the spaces between words and know that those spaces contain real truth. Some of my heroes are scientists who dare to make the connections between science and spirituality:  Brian Swimme, mathematical cosmologist, Albert Einstein, and to some extent, David Bohm. They have risked being laughed out of the sacred halls of academia.

Many of you are by now sick of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory; however, it can be a profound spiritual awakening.  A person who scores as a high thinker and sensate can use spiritual practices to develop his/her intuitive gifts.  As a traveler I could stop photographing a myriad of details for a few minutes and just sit and drink in what the scene means and how it affects me.  Practices like this bring us into the spaces between words where the experience of the holy happens. Churches celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle annually by telling the story of how he doubted the resurrection of Jesus.  Poor man.  He never had access to the MeyersBriggs.

At the end of his life the great scholastic theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas said about his many treatises, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” His fine mind and the questions he asked of it led him to rest in divine presence.  They served him so well that in the end he didn’t need them anymore.