A Posture For The Holidays

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So we have arrived once again on the cusp of celebration, when expectations run high and nerves fray at the edges.  In this lovely poem, For The Senses, John O’ Donohue offers us a way through, a way to be for the holidays.

This way demands that we slow down, watch, listen, wait.

May the touch of your skin

Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

 

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

 

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

 

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.

 

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.
For the Senses by John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us
Photo Credit: Rhonda Beck
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Sitting Ducks

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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

 

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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: 

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In Search Of Two Sticks

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Feet firmly planted in the starters’ block,
Hands holding the weight of my body
I await the starter’s gun with expectation
Couched in taut trepidation.

We’re off!
Find two sticks to rub together,
An ideology and a firebrand will do nicely.
Hurry. Rub fast before-
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Furtive fumbles in decaying underbrush
Uncover the piece de resistance-
The twin sticks of wealth and prestige,
a toxic fast-fading conflagration
No phoenix rising here.

Energy waning, desperation draining
I plod on in search of fire fodder,
Stumbling upon the sure-fired kindling
Of dogma and Nirvana fizzling out incompatible

At last, the finish line.
I collapse with hands empty and spirit vulnerable
Rubbed raw and flame flashing
God rekindled.

 

 

© Rita H Kowats November 9, 2017

What If?

Louise Penny November quote

 

But

What if
we remembered
that the drama of mottled clouds
stirs the iffy places in our souls?

What if
we remembered
that skeleton trees create space
for soul seeing?

What if
we remembered
that the snare drum dissonance of leaves
crunching underfoot
announces the death of misconceived decisions
and promises life conceived in hope?

What if
we remembered
that the pungent odor of garden leftovers
wafting on crisp autumnal air
promises a resurrection like none other?

What if
we remembered
that the threads of November’s spider webs
emanate from the same spiritual fiber
that weaves one soul to another soul to another?

What if
we remembered.

 

© Rita H Kowats
November 2017

 

Calling All Prophets

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“The Sound Of Silence”

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silenceIn restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

Photo Credit:

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

“Unclench Yourself”: A Guided Meditation

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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/