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>
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.
https://www.pexels.com/search/art/ CCO license
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Photo Credit: http://q13fox.com/2014/07/17/heart-wrenching-photos-fires-burn-houses-memories-in-twisp/
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