Shifting Images

This reflection comes to us from my friend Ardine Martinelli, who lives in the beautiful NW where she is a Spiritual Director and retreat leader.  She enjoys gardening, hiking, travel,
and good conversation with friends.  May it speak to us in ways we can hear and heed.

dancer now

Shifting Images

While meditating I received the most amazing message, “Change your image from Warrior to Dancer.”  This jolted me back to the present as I began to reflect on what that might look like.

I have been a warrior most of my life. I felt I needed to prove, achieve, master and do.  I lived life like I had to conquer it. I moved out into the world, believing I had to make things happen.  This mode served me well for a long time.  I built a successful career and business, and created a sense of competency and worth around my achievements.  I am now 71 years old and this image no longer serves me, in fact, it drains me.  I am tired of pushing through, I want to rest and let life come to me.

Ah, this is the image of the dancer.  As I began playing with the dancer image I realized I craved the idea of letting life flow through me.  As a dancer, I am a partner with life not a conqueror of life. My dancer waits, trusting in life and knowing all is well.   My whole body relaxes as I let this image flow through me.  It is hard for me to imagine waiting for life to come to me.   Trust is not a quality that comes easy.

Warrior is my default mode.  When I feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, I move into the warrior, take-charge mode.  It is my warrior energy that creates the struggle of believing I “should” be “doing” more.  With awareness, I can allow my warrior to rest. It is not either/or, it is a dance between my warrior and dancer. The shift of image is a process and I trust in its slow movement through my being.

 Photo Credits:

“Amazon ” www.wikigender.org;     “Dance Silhouettes” free vector clip-art

 

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The Land of Nod and The Feast

Recently, a fellow dreamer, Kayla, (www.dreamerly.com) posted this dream:

“Last night my dreams took me to the strangest places – to a little neighborhood of modern buildings nestled among the familiar imagery of my hometown.  On our way to our destination, my companion in the dream and I passed a light blue modern structure, a restaurant called “The Almond.” (I think that name is delightful and if I were to start a restaurant, I would surely name it just that!) Our destination in the dream was the house of a woman who served dinner from her home. It was a Sunday, and we were uncertain if she would be serving dinner that night. She was. When we were seated, we were the only ones there, but soon more people came and more and more, so that the room was completely full. A strange feast of the oddest foods was served. It was a marvelous dream, one that evokes memories of Babette’s Feast and that has had me moving through my day with an inward eye and a strange state of mind.”

With Kayla’s nod, I made an attempt to enter her dream and create a poem:

Tomboyseer 2

The Feast

Thirty-Seventh Ave. S.W.
Basks in the glow of yesteryear,
Yester joy, and the abandonment of youth.
Its aura creates an illusion of “All is well,”
When it isn’t….But THIS part is well:
Re-enacting every movie we saw,
I at the top of one vacant lot, a virtual Carol Burnet, singing at the top of my lungs,
“I’m calling you, ooo, ooo, ooo,”
Melania Wozniak echoing from the opposite vacant lot,
“I’m answering you, ooo, ooo, ooo.”
A “gemutlich” time, a hospitable hiatus
From a sometimes inhospitable home.
Out on Thirty-Seventh Ave. S.W.
I didn’t have to fit in where I didn’t fit.
Here, the wild, tomboy-seer
Fit.

The neighborhood of my youth
Tenders a gift:
“Return to my table and re-member the memories.”
I return.
New table.
Renovated restaurant.
And in the breaking of the bread
I see.

Deo Gratias

© rita h kowats

The Black and White Pinto Pony

Mary and Rita.jpg enlarged
One spring day in 1949 a man strolled through our lazy Seattle neighborhood, leading a black and white pinto pony.  I left my little heart on 50th St. in West Seattle that day.  “Hey, kids, you want to ride my pony?”  Duh.  We ran into the house and wore Mom down with begging.  After all, for just $5 she would have a swell portrait of us.
I remember that day as the happiest of my childhood- not the details- I didn’t know until recently that my sister had wanted to wear the chaps, but she let me instead.  It’s the experience of ecstasy I remember.  It’s there on my face, bursting through the dimples.

I also remember sitting on the floor in front of the book case at age seven and a half, ecstatic at my re-discovery of a book, If Jesus Came To My House.  It portrayed a child leading Jesus by the hand through the house and neighborhood, pointing out the most special people, places and toys.  I remember feeling so close to Jesus as I read, and the yearning for him to come to my house and stay.  The seeds of mysticism planted.  A remodled house now, an evolved image of Jesus; nevertheless, the same yearning.

Jesus arrived at my house the day the black and white pinto pony came, and every time since then, when I watch toddlers play, and my cat chase her tail.  This old shaker song ,“Simple Gifts” was written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.  It says it all.

 

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Mary and Rita close up

The Golden Kiss: A DreamPoem

Golden Kiss Skeleton

dream

I descend cracked concrete stairs into a tunnel that winds under the streets of NYC.  I have some fear.  It is very dark and feels hollow.  I hear subtle rattling in the distance, the sound pinging off the damp walls, calling to me?  With every step comes a commitment to the journey and curiosity about the destination.  The longer I walk the louder the rattling.  Light ahead.  Closer…to what?  Silence.  I gingerly walk through an aperture and am greeted by several skeletons.  Each one has a gold kiss on its cheekbone.  Light from a crack in the tunnel’s ceiling wraps them in warmth.  I feel embraced, welcomed, as if they have been waiting for me for a long time.  I know I am home.  There are so many questions:  Who are they?  Why are they here?  Why have they waited for me?  Who left the kiss on their cheeks?  Before I can ask, one skeleton steps forward and offers me a loaf of bread, saying, “For the journey back up.”  I don’t want to leave, but waking life intervenes and I “feel it in my bones” that the tunnel has brought me to the mountain top.

pOEM IN DREAM

Bare Bones Truth filters into the soul
Between the tendons of our lives,
And like a hungry dog, doesn’t let go
Until it has done its work.

It gnaws down,
Pulls up,
Seals us with its golden kiss,
And heaves us back into the thick of life,
Stark but strong.

 

Disarmament of the Heart

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When all is said and done our call in this life is simple: Love God, Love Self, Love Others. Love is born through a rigorous process of disarming the heart. it is an act of unparalleled trust. It frightens us, so we fiercely protect our center like petals protecting the heart of a flower . The choice to unveil the beauty of the center leaves us vulnerable, so we resist and protect it. I am deeply grateful for the witness of many prophets who faithfully do the hard work of disarming so that they can preach the truth from a clean place. Because they are doing it, I believe that it is possible.

The practice of disarming the heart is so important, that without it, we have no moral authority to do justice. Our call to do justice presupposes the call to let go of the ego entrapments that motivate us: unbridled power, arrogance, addictive control, unfocused fear, selfish competition, resentment. The more these attitudes motivate us, the more we stifle dialogue with an adversary; however, knowledge and acceptance of our entrapments create openness and opportunity for dialogue. Paradoxically, this is a very strong place from which to do justice. When we are committed to disarming the heart, we are truly “walking the talk.”

Although the practice of disarming the heart is difficult, we can do it in simple and practical ways. Foremost, the process necessitates a degree of solitude and silence in which we have the space to allow peace to germinate. Without peace we cannot bore through the clamor of ego enough to see and recognize the needs of one another, much less the needs of the world. We unconsciously allow the clamor to persist because it throws a safe cloak around our inner core. We fear the power of our deepest self because if that gift is acknowledged, life becomes dangerous and demanding. It’s easier to hide the prophet in us. But we must do the work, and expose the prophet, because unconscious “peace” only plays at doing justice.

Within the moments of silence and solitude which we carve out, saying mantras can be a powerful spiritual tool.  For four years I leafleted weekly at a nuclear submarine base in Puget Sound.  To stay alert and focused at 6:00 A.M. I recited, “Come Lord Jesus, set us free.”  It was a plea to let go of the fear and prejudice which blocked leafleters and workers from honest dialogue.  Sometimes preoccupied by angry challenges, or still half asleep, I forgot to say the mantra.  A frequent traveler into the base came in a pickup truck with a rifle on a rack.  I would think, “Oh, does this guy hate me.”  One day I was able to pay attention when the truck came through.  The driver looked depressed, and from some place in me I blurted, “How are you this morning?”  He responded, “How am I?  I’m terrible.  How else would I be, having to go in there every day and do the work I have to do?”  We were connected from that moment on, because We both had allowed the Spirit to disarm our egos.

We are sometimes unable to dialogue peacefully because we cache resentment and blame, finger tip-ready to call up on queue. Such arming of the heart causes violence and blocks progress toward achieving justice. Buddhists have a practice of forgiveness in which they pray to forgive self and others for all conscious and unconscious harmful acts. I think this prayer should be a part of every training for nonviolent action, and a daily practice for anyone serious about falling in love with God, self, and others.

Finally, I want to say something on behalf of ego. I embrace it, because it’s in the mix of being human. Like the petals which surround the heart of the flower, it has a purpose. When strong and focused, it keeps us safe and gives us the courage to love. The goal is to harness the ego, not annihilate it. We want to have a sense of humor about it all, lest we become zealots to whom no one wants to listen. Meister Eckhart says that “God laughs and plays,” and that works for me! The more fear we have of exposing our own complicity in injustice, the more inclined we are to set up protective barriers; however, if we hold our own flawed natures lightly, we are less likely to attack our adversaries for their flawed natures. Disarming in this way doesn’t mean we have to condone the unjust action. It simply means that we accept our commonality as human beings.

In his poem, “Peace,” Gerard Manley Hopkins offers a unique description of heart-disarmament: “And when peace here does house, he comes with work to do. He does not come to coo, he comes to brood and sit.” May our brooding create a peace which births justice.

_______________________________
“Disarmament of the Heart” was first published in AMOS, a journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle: ipjc.org

Independence Day: The Whole Truth

Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem jpeg

My journey to the car wash this Fourth of July afternoon offered up a full spectrum of emotions.  I had just spent an hour studying my friend Matt’s blog post about his experience of picking coffee in Columbia and listening to the plight of farmers displaced by multinational coffee corporations ( http://matthollandsj.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/one-more-cup-of-coffee-fore-i-go/) .  In the car, my mind raced through facts about the injustices to people and environment, perpetrated to a large degree by the U.S.  And my heart ached for the priest Matt said had been mutilated and murdered by the Columbian government because he stood in their way of amassing land from farmers to accommodate the multinationals.  My Fourth hadn’t gotten off to a good start.  Like Jesus, my spirit wept for my sins of waste and consumerism, and for the sins of my country.
First stop: the Shoreline Library, where I scanned the borrowed DVD’s and slipped them into the return bin.  Such excellent films they were, all for free.  There on the bench outside the entrance to the library, sat an aging Asian couple, laptop in hand and completely immersed in a program wi-fied to them, compliments of the library.  Fireworks exploded in my heart.  This is also America, I thought.  Our tax dollars at work on behalf of this immigrant couple who possibly came here from Tibet, in search of their stolen freedom.
Last stop:  a challenge.  The 90’s offered up a biting satirical film starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson.  It was called, “Wag the Dog.”  It seems the president’s affair has hit the newsstand, so his chief of staff hires a Hollywood producer to create a war in Albania to divert attention from the affair.  A “war hero” is conjured up and a patriotic song, “Old Shu,” is composed to rally all of America around the pretend-war effort.  I swear.  They played that song the duration of my tour through Walgreen’s.  I was off again!
So, now for the spiritual practice necessary here.  Never stop thinking.  Never stop weeping over Jerusalem.  But always seek the WHOLE truth, which embodies grace as well as sin.

Happy Fourth of July!

Fear and Freedom

train in fog

“I have often stated that there is a power in the soul that touches neither time nor flesh.  It flows out of the spirit and remains in the spirit, and is totally and utterly spiritual.  In this power God is as totally verdant and flourishing in all joy and in all honor as he is in himself….In the power God is unceasingly glowing and burning with all his wealth, with all his sweetness, and with all his bliss.”   Meister Eckhart

This morning I landed on “Thomas and Friends” while surfing channels to escape the rigors of surgical rehab.  Thomas was winding through a mountain pass when thick fog set in, robbing the little engine of all visual perspective.  Immediately I stepped into panic mode.  What if the tracks are shattered?  What if something is on the tracks?  What if another train has switched over onto Thomas’ track?  The dense fog slithered around me and took control as surely as if the situation were real.  “STOP, THOMAS!” I ALMOST YELLED.  Then…Oh.  It’s just a cartoon, Rita.  But fear had touched me on a primal level.

The fog of fear moves in when we least expect it, and like a photo shop tool, distorts who we really are.  God’s power in the depths of the soul is so abundant, that we fear it will overtake us.  But who are we, if not “sparks of the divine” (Meister Eckhart)?  We fear that God’s power will stun others with its light and they will withdraw in their discomfort, leaving us alone.  But we can’t name the fear that way.  Instead, we camouflage it by convincing ourselves that we are nothing.  We are sinful and proud wretches.  Fear is very effective in preserving that illusion.  And we remain safe from the risks inherent in the choice to grow.

We don’t trust that God’s power is enough to carry us through and beyond the fog.  We don’t trust that the power of God in us has eyes to see when we lose our sight.  May we develop the ability to see and accept the power of God in us, and the courage to let it spill out in spontaneous acts of unconditional love.