The Homing Instinct

 

turtles homing

It is both frightening and painful for many Americans to witness the daily unraveling of the principles we hold sacred without relinquishing all hope.  Today I am returning to the magic of Pat Conroy in his novel Beach Music.  Let the vibration of hundreds of loggerhead turtles on their first march to the sea get deep into your soul’s bones as you take in Conroy’s description:

Beach Music

We must not forget our spiritual homing instinct, our restless urge to go beyond ourselves to the Other, however we define that for ourselves.  Know your spiritual landscape.  Fix your eyes on the vast ocean of the Other’s love, and let’s head out together. In this lies hope.

 

 

photo credit: Eddietherocker <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28393978@N07/35807963985″>Tres Turtles</a> via <a href=”http://Aphotopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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Evidence of Flossing: A Book Review

Evidence of Flossing Cover

 

Jennifer A. Payne’s
WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR
OF
“Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind”

Book Summary:

Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.
ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”
EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

My Review:

Jen Payne’s book, Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind, carries prophetic power in the spaces between its words. It is truth and beauty delivered to us in wide-eyed wonder by a child’s heart passionately in love with nature.

The prophet shows up in bold statements like,”This watch around my neck doesn’t work,” (Time Peace) and “My fingers touch its teeth like rosary beads, penance for our collective apathy,” and “Numbed and dumbed by these machines,” (Now Trending>)

Other times we encounter a mystic drawing us into the essence of the universe, “Everything is flowing, god whispers. How foolish am I to resist?” (Resistance is Futile.)

In each poem Jen crawls inside a subject and settles in for a leisurely lie-in until she understands, then becomes her subject. The integrity of the process gifts readers with fresh insight and renewed commitment to be mindful of what they leave behind. As in this verse from “Sanctified without Assistance,” ‘Jen’s writing is sometimes spare, creating space for soulful birthing: “Come winter, bare-branch whispers of hope promised, stored.”

Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind should not be missed. You will come away with both righteous anger and with hope. You will be blessed with insight into the nature of spirituality and rekindled with the joy of nature.

Jen Payne Head Shot

 

About the Author:

Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.

Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.

In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.

Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle &amp; Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing, http://www.randomactsofwriting.net.

 

Jennifer can also be found online at:

Website: https://3chairspublishing.com/

Blog: https://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/threechairspub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThreeChairsPub

Be sure to visit!

 

 

 

Sitting Ducks

36415309560_061834cf2b_n

 

It was such a perfect and appropriate image. Of being blind. Of the people who use the blind not seeing the cruelty of what they did, not seeing the beauty of what they were about to kill. It was, after all, a perfect word for that perch. A blind.

Louise Penny Still Life p. 257

These wise words from Louise Penny refer to a murder committed in the shelter of a deer blind perched out of sight in a tree.  The image moves me to reflect on all the ways we ambush one another then cover it up in the safety of our self-righteousness.

Pledge: A Spiritual Practice

I will pay attention to the words and actions I hide behind to ambush the other.

If I must say or do the hard thing let it be said and done with eyes wide open rather than with eyes wide shut.

I will seek out those who speak and do in the light, and learn from them how to begin.

I will replace the violence of the blind with compassion and understanding.

 

photo credit: felipe_gabaldon <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25716821@N04/36415309560“>From the cave</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

A Spiritual Practice To Free The Mind

 

stained-glass-colorful-glass-stained-glass-window-161043

 

 

The most powerful form of prayer, and the one which can gain almost all things and which is the worthiest work of all, is that which flows from a free mind. The freer the mind is, the more powerful and worthy; the more useful, praiseworthy and perfect prayer and work become. A free mind can achieve all things.
Conversations With Meister Eckhart Meister Eckhart, Simon Parke

What does the Meister mean by a free mind? Single-minded, focused on God, no distractions? Yes, but he also talks about ichgebundenheit, a state of mind in which we are bound to the drama of the ego, so a free mind would be a mind unchained to ego.
Eckhart also says,” I pray God that he may quit me of God,” so it means a mind free of false images of God.

A free mind is an empty mind, detached from all that enters, even from sacred moments gifted in contemplation.

For me it means that for just a moment I stop clinging to that which clamors for my attention. A common little drama which plays out in my everyday life is the distraction of noise. I live in a spralling apartment complex where maintenance needs generate constant loud noise. Tuesdays at 7:00 the city garbage trucks subject us to 20 minutes of an automated machine emptying one can after another. Wednesdays bring a grounds maintenance crew wielding their monstrous lawn blowers. The list goes on, but we musn’t. Most often the noise closes in on me taking over all of my attention. I rant and rave and denounce “progress,” as environmental injustice until I have allowed the noise to become me and there is no space for the divine. My mind is not free.
Buddhists have an excellent way to free the mind. They would tell me to see the garbage trucks as a mindfulness bell calling me to meditation. My practice has become a variation on that advice. In this practice substitute “garbage trucks” with whatever threatens to take over your being.

Spiritual Practice: Freeing The Mind

  • The distraction presents itself, threatening to take over thoughts and feelings.
  • Acknowledge it’s presence saying, for example, “Garbage Trucks.” Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings.
  • Establish a rhythm to your breathing saying, “Breathing in I acknowledge this noise and it’s hold on me, breathing out I release it.”
  • Breathing the intention will eventually create a space for the divine to enter. Say, “Breathing in God is here. Breathing out, I am peace.”
  • When you feel yourself resting in God’s presence continue breathing and wait for the Spirit’s prompting.

 

Photo Credit: 

https://www.pexels.com/search/art/  CCO license

Make Light

Puget Sound Jellyfish

 

My sister shared this photo which she took while on an outing to Alki Beach in West Seattle- our adolescent playground. I responded to it on a cellular level. Not because of conjured memories- it was the jellyfish that pulled me into their light with the enticing movement of their tentacles. They calm me. “What do you want me to learn? I asked them.

A National Geographic/Nova documentary, “Creatures of light” gave me the answer in a query posed by a scientist, “How to survive the dark? Make Light.” The documentary is a study of bioluminescence in more than 200 species of deep-sea creatures and the bioflorescence of many land creatures. Light is the stuff of life for them.

In biofloresencence species take light from an external source and give it back. Watching fireflies on an otherwise stifling summer night. What a gift. As human beings, our spirits catch the light from other beings and store it deep in our souls where it generates more light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Jn.1:5

In bioluminescence, species create their own light. It is programmed into their genes. My imagination goes to the magic of Pandora, in the film Avatar.

Navi-River-Journey_Full_30133_picmonkeyed

Human beings are body and spirit and spirit is light. Light is as integral to our spirits as it is to the genes of bioluminescent creatures. With light we can make light. 

Give-receive–give-receive. I celebrate this interdependence on the weekend when Americans bow to independence.

 

 

Photo Credit Avatar: http://www.wdwmagic.com/attractions/navi-river-journey/news/16may2017-review-and-pov-video—na’vi-river-journey-on-pandora—the-world-of-avatar.htm

 

 

Día de Muertos-Day of the Dead

dofd-collage

I dedicate this post to a friend whose death is close.  He has chosen to die at this time rather than wait. Being kept alive by extraordinary means at an advanced age seems counterproductive to him when he could be dancing with the dead!  

Enjoy this extraordinary film of the life cycle of nature in Alaska, remembering that we are nature. Today is a day to celebrate the cycle.

 

 

The Spirituality of Matter

fire32

Matter matters as much as spirit, contrary to some thought in early Christianity.  Matter was considered by some to be evil, while spirit was good.  Contemporary Christian theology urges us to recognize and celebrate the reality that everything that exists is interrelated.  What I do in my relationship with creation affects your ability to be nourished by and enjoy your environment.  My friend Polly grew up in Eastern Washington in the farming town of Colton.  She has lived most of her life somewhere east of the Cascades mountain range.  Today the magnitude and urgency of fires that rage there came home to her.  I share her letter as an invitation to all of us to take creation-centered spirituality seriously.

Dear Rita

This morning I heard that Tonasket was evacuated because of fire danger–the whole town of Tonasket–a town where I spent a week while I taught vacation summer school in Oroville, living in the convent of the Dominican hospital in Tonasket.  This town is evacuated because of the wildfires in the Okanogan.  These places are not just names on a map, They are places I know.  A Colville tribes person asked for prayers saying their reservation is burning.  Also, the whole Spokane Indian Reservation is under a warning to be ready to move because of fire danger.  This is getting closer to home and to the homes of people I know.

 Meanwhile our air is smokey, our sun gives an eerie orangish glow, I go to my car and find particles of ash on my windshield.  And since I’ve started writing this even the valley below my ridge has filled in with smoke.

 But the coal trains keep on rumbling by with their multiple cars shipping coal to the west and likely into Canada on its way to China. And the black tanker cars carry their highly volatile oil to the west coast to refineries where it will become gasoline and other dangerous global warming producing products.

 The drought and fires wouldn’t have to be.  We in our state wouldn’t have to have had the hottest July on record since 1890 when records first started being kept, and our whole planet wouldn’t have to have had the hottest July on record.  But we keep on drilling for oil and natural gas and keep on burning coal.  I sob with heart-break for all this destruction that wouldn’t have to be.

Polly

Photo Credit:  http://q13fox.com/2014/07/17/heart-wrenching-photos-fires-burn-houses-memories-in-twisp/

Presence

Wherever you stand be the soul of that place

Public transportation has become my preferred way to move about my congested city and between cities. However, I am a solitary person so the crowded, loud and stuffy buses are a challenge for me.  Often I am unable to muster up the spiritual energy to learn anything from a trip.  I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but I bus it intentionally for the lessons I learn about being truly present to myself and others.

Recently I took two buses and a ferry to visit my friend on an island.  In a cemetery along the route workers were erecting a canopy over an open grave.  The scene drew me in, conjuring images of my siblings and I standing at the grave of our parents.  I prayed for the loved ones of this spirit who would arrive in a few hours to say good-bye.

Soon, after one of the hundred stops the bus made, I felt a rich, reverberating and peaceful energy around me. Startled, I began to pay attention.  Someone was singing.  I turned on my hearing aids and was greeted with a faith-filled gospel song that seemed to emanate from a life deeply lived and a love freely given.  I caught the singer’s eye and gave her a thumbs up.  As the bus approached her stop she moved forward, still singing.  The driver shouted, “Take it outside, will ‘ya?”  I walked over, shook her hand and said, “Thank you.”

The challenge of the ride came when three “fare checkers” boarded the bus like Navy SEALs on a mission. They boomed out an introduction, asking us to have our transfers ready to prove that we had paid.  Three men- one to check, two to provide muscle off the bus if necessary.  I wondered what passengers without homes were experiencing during this check that felt like a raid.

On the last leg of the trip home I sat beside a sixteen year old who had traveled from a city forty-five miles south to meet another teen who said he’d buy a pair of shoes from him.  The buyer was not answering his phone, so it appeared that the trip was useless.  A really sweet kid who likely had no adult to navigate him through the ins and outs of business transactions.  No car, but big on initiative.  I tried to be present and offer him a bit of comfort and reassurance.

Taking public transportation is becoming a spiritual practice for me.  Sometimes life outside my comfort zone is more real and spiritual than life ensconced safely in my contemplative anchorage.

Phonto Credit:  Evening Standard