Forget the Perfect Offering- Love the Flaws

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Two books which I have found very helpful in opening my wounds to let the light in:

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Heart of Forgiveness: A Practical Path to Healing by Madeleine Ko-i Bastis

 

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RELIEF REVEALED

winter to spring collage

For a few years I rented an apartment located across the street from Volunteer Park in Seattle where I would visit the conservatory to escape the incessant, driving rain of winter. Some of you are experiencing the harshness of desert heat at this time. Others can hardly endure freezing temperatures. Relief, pour out your sweet elixir!

 

By the time I walked through the conservatory doors
my rain-drenched coat dripped
into rivulets between the tiles of the green ceramic floor.
The moist heat cocooned me in an aura of sensuous pleasure
releasing me from the burden of my winter coat.

I strolled from room to room
Eyes feasting on a kaleidoscope of vivid color
Paraded with pride by paradise flowers
Orchids Birds of Paradise Hibiscus

Reaching the desert succulent wing
I sat for a while to ponder the plants.
How do you survive this intense aridity?
How do I survive this incessant humidity?

They survive because they must
We survive because we know
That relief lies latent
In the recesses of our souls
Warming us like the moist heat
Of a conservatory on a winter day.

Visit often and spring befalls us
Like pollen cascading from fuchsia Hibiscus.

© Rita H Kowats 1-23-18

 

 

 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d141258-Reviews-Volunteer_Park_Conservatory-Seattle_Washington.html

This Cacaphony of Caca: A Spiritual Practice

soul card for combat fatigue

There has been a lot of cacophony over caca in the last week. Donald Trump’s now infamous racist epithet has left many of us in a deep depression fraught with rage and outrage. Let the cacophony careen until it crashes through every wall erected to protect us from diversity. We wonder how Germany could have raised up Hitler and then remained silent. Now America knows how it happened. There is a time for words, there is a time for action. The time for action is now.

From a place burning deep within my humanity, I have cried tears of anger and tears of shame. I have sat in solidarity with friends as they cried tears of rage and shame. There have been prolonged episodes of reading and analysis of Huffpost, the Washington Post, the BBC. I wrote to my three legislators calling them to gather support in invoking the 25th Amendment. Now I have settled into silence and solitude to support the soulcare that I so sorely need.

SOULCARE

Free The Mind

Distractions enter, threatening to take over thoughts and feelings.

  • Acknowledge their 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.

Seek Healing

  • Detach yourself from the belief that you are the sole saviour of the world.
  • Acknowledge your rage and grief and be grateful you can feel them.
  • Send loving kindness to yourself, repeating the mantra throughout your day until you feel a shift in your consciousness:

Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation

May I be safe from harm.
May I be happy and peaceful
May I be strong and healthy.
May I take care of myself with joy.

  • Send forgiveness to Donald Trump and to all of us for our complicity in racism; if forgiveness doesn’t come remember that it is a process. I have sometimes had to ask God to forgive for me:

Buddhist Forgiveness Prayer

If I have harmed anyone in any way either knowingly or unknowingly
through my own confusions I ask their forgiveness.

If anyone has harmed me in any way either knowingly or unknowingly
through their own confusions I forgive them.

And if there is a situation I am not yet ready to forgive
I forgive myself for that.

For all the ways that I harm myself, negate, doubt, belittle myself,
judge or be unkind to myself through my own confusions
I forgive myself.

Birth the Divine in the Unjust Situation

A Mantra

Breathing in peace
Breathing out transformed rage.
Breathing in the divine
Breathing out justice
Breathing in the divine
Breathing out justice.

God alive we thrive.
May it be so.

ACT

 

Photo Credit:   

“SoulCards” by Deborah Koff-Chapin.  The technique Deborah has created is called “touch drawing.”  The  cards come in two decks of 60 images and can be used alone or with others as reflection tools.  They have enriched my meditation for years and have helped those I companion with.  www.soulcards.com

Used with permission from the artist

 

Collusion

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Collusion

The day after
the Shame
the expanse of sometimes blue sky
is speckled with thick, sooty elephant-skin clouds
That bleed disdain on Lady Liberty
who holds vigil in the harbor
of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Shame
shrieks, reeks inhumanity, holding us hostage
until we dare say it out loud:
Racist.
Brothers and sisters, forgive us,
for we know exactly what we do.

© Rita H Kowats 1-12-18

 

Photo Credit: Getty

 

 

Winter Doldrums

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Really, I am truly grateful for Seattle rain, especially as I see reports about places where people are suffering from much more adverse weather conditions; however, winter can wear thin, can’t it?

This lovely poem from Marge Piercy picked me up.  I hope it does the same for you today.

 

The butt of winter

The city lies grey and sopping like a dead rat
under the slow oily rain.
Between the lower east side tenements
the sky is a snotty handkerchief.
The garbage of poor living slimes the streets.
You lie on your bed and think soon it will be hot and violent,
then it will be cold and mean.
You say you feel as empty as a popbottle in the street.
You say you feel full of cold water standing like an old horse trough.
The clock ticks, somewhat wrong, the walls crack their dry knuckles.
Work is only other rooms where people cough,
only the typewriter clucking like a wrong clock.
Nobody will turn the soiled water into wine,
nobody will shout cold Lazarus alive but you.

You are your own magician.

Stretch out your hand, stretch out your hand and look:
each finger is a snake of energy, a gaggle of craning necks.
Each electric finger conducts the world.
Each finger is a bud’s eye opening.
Each finger is a vulnerable weapon.
The sun is floating in your belly like a fish.
Light creaks in your bones.
You are sleeping with your tail in your mouth.
Unclench your hands and look.
Nothing is given us but each other.
We have nothing to give but ourselves.
We have nothing to take but the time that drips,
drips anyhow leaving a brown stain.
Open your eyes and your belly.
Let the sun rise into your chest and burn your throat,
stretch out your hands and tear the gauzy rain
that your world can be born from you
screaming and red.

by Marge Piercy in Circles on the Water

 

Photo Source: https://www.pexels.com/u/pixabay/

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 & 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!

 

 

 

In Memory of 305 Sufi Souls

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Egypt-mosque-attack-1139842

Yesterday, November 24, terrorists bombed the Sufi mosque al-Rawda in North Egypt.  They killed 305 women, men and children as they worshipped. Sufi mystics have long held a revered place in my heart.  Their knowledge and wisdom has taught me much and I grieve their deaths and the loss of their spiritual gifts to the world.

In honor of these fallen Sufis I offer this piece by their great mystic, Rumi:

 

Out beyond the worlds of Islam and Infidels,

there lies an egalitarian world
where no one is better, worse, or
more significant than the other.
If you’re interested in moving
to that unique world,
you need to first leave your heart and soul
as deposit with its Soul Master!

 

Rumi translated by http://sologak1.blogspot.com

 

photo after attack credit: https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/883865/mosque-attack-egypt-Sinai-Bir-al-Abd-bomb-explosion-gun-Al-Rawdah

photo before attack credit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42110223

 

 

 

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

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: 

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