Photo Credit: See-Through-Cathedral on a Hill Outside of Brussels, Belgium
Photo Credit: See-Through-Cathedral on a Hill Outside of Brussels, Belgium
Some of you are aware of my love for this quote which has graced my posts more than once in an ongoing attempt to understand and live it.This is what it says to me today. It’s a bit cryptic. Plunge right in!
Photo Credit: Liberation Through Seeings – Alex Grey – www.alexgrey.com / Sacred Geometry ♥
An invitation from years past to meditate on brooding-baring-bearing in the now of these troubled times.
“The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God.” Meister Eckhart
While resting beside Echo Lake,
A thriving refuge tucked aside from concrete carvings,
I am summoned to attention by two red-winged black birds.
He perches atop a winter-withered reed.
She plunges deep into the safe bosom of branches and she stays.
The primordial rhythm endures
Echoing the sacred cycle
Set in motion by bits of star dust
Burst from the verdant void before time.
Bird eggs into birds
Pear seeds into pear trees
Nut seeds into nut trees
Human seeds into humans
God seed into God.
God-gene generates godliness.
Like red-winged black birds
Human souls echo the same cycle:
Return, return, return
Return to the God seed
To brood and bare.
© rita h kowats 2014
Some thoughts for this American season of Independence
In our reading from Zechariah we meet the remnant of God’s people who have come out of exile in Babylon to make a home for themselves back in the land they believe God gave them. They are lost in transition and the prophet calls them to build a soul city with humility and nonviolence as its foundation. Yahweh is powerfully present, standing guard against prowlers who would lure them back. This new home is ruled by a humble man on a donkey who banishes the trappings of war. It is a soul land, not a homeland.
Many Christians in America have been in spiritual exile for 239 years, asleep while a national lifestyle of violence and greed has come to so define us that we throw up our arms and cry, “What could I possibly do?” We celebrated Independence Day yesterday. As Christians we seek to re-appropriate that goal by living in interdependence. It is time to emerge from spiritual exile in the homeland of violence, hate and greed and enter the Soul Land we have inherited as God’s people. The words of an old hymn recently moved me deeply, “The Word of God Is Solid Ground.” It asks, “What powers can our faith constrain? What iron-clad restrictions? No self-deceiving rule can chain our conscience and convictions. Our God alone is on the throne,” it goes on to say. “For freedom’s sake we bend, we break, a sign to ev’ry nation that we have found a solid ground; God’s word our sure foundation.” Let us not forget that our God’s throne is on the back of a donkey.
When we give countercultural witness from an ego place we are stuck in exile; however, if the authority to witness comes from the God we meet in prayer and self-reflection, we are a humble remnant ruled by the donkey-king. Sooner or later each of us is called to speak and to name injustice clearly and unequivocally. Take a moment to recall such a time. Where did your strength come from? It is a soul-strength that breaks out in goose bumps and evokes a resounding, “Yes.” People listen when we are able to say, “For I have been to the Mountain top!”
Let’s step out of lofty metaphors now and examine how we can practically address our society’s exile. John’s Jesus tells his disciples that if they live according to his teaching they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. More lofty words, but notice the call to practical hard work implied between the lines. Living according to Jesus’ teaching means that we take gospel values seriously. We find the truth by paying attention and changing behaviors and attitudes in variance with gospel values. Getting into Soul Land is much harder work than staying in homeland. It’s no easy thing to prophesy from the back of a donkey.
Meister Eckhart provides rich material for meditation on this theme. As a brilliant theologian and gifted preacher he chose to preach with a mind like a razor but from his perch on the metaphorical donkey. He chose to preach in the market place and in German rather than Latin so that all the peasants under the thumb of the corrupted guild system and bishops of the church could understand his message that all people are aristocrats, divine by grace and noble by nature. He condemned what he called the “Merchant Mentality.” His message was considered seditious to church officials and rulers who profited by the guild system, so they silenced him. But that silence resounded clearly and boldly because his countercultural lifestyle was an invitation to emerge from exile. His choice to preach an empowering message to humble peasants is a powerful example to us in our own century. Out of his mysticism came a word which expresses exile poignantly: ICHGEBUNDENHEIT, bound up in the I, the ego. When we have loosed those bonds, says Eckhart, we give birth to the Son of God and that love spills out to the marketplace in acts of justice.
Finally, a personal example of my being stuck in exile and being given the grace to emerge. As a member of the Ground Zero Community in Poulsbo, WA I passed out leaflets to workers entering Subase Bangor every Monday morning at 6:00 A.M. As you can imagine my mind often wandered to that cup of hot coffee waiting at the end of my shift. I struggled to remain nonviolent amidst weekly encounters with angry sailors and marines, and it was often difficult to fend off despair. For a year a man came in every week in a pick-up truck with a rifle rack on the back; sometimes he had two passengers along. I stood there in my self-righteous indignation relating to him as a “red neck war monger.” One Monday I was able to be more centered as I prayed that I and the workers would be open to hearing one another. This man came in alone, looking depressed. I felt moved to say, “How are you today?” He blurted out, “How am I? I’m terrible. How else could I be, having to go in there and do what I do every day?” I began to learn that we must prophesy truth with intelligence and clarity, but we must do it from the back of a donkey.
This poem, inspired by Psalm 137, came out of my meditation and I close with it:
On the shores of the Potomac
We sit and weep-
Outlanders in Homeland
Looking for our godvoice.
From deep in Soul Land
We feel its vibrations
Erupting into a Hope Song
Sung true and strong
In a foreign land.
This morning I am reflecting on beauty. In his book Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Times, Matthew Fox describes a “Mystic- Warrior” as “one possessed by beauty, one alive with radical amazement.” In spring we seem to pay more attention to beauty, perhaps since we tend not to see it in the starkness of winter; but it is there as well.
The Romantic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about beauty in “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo: Maidens’ Song from Saint Winefred’s Well.” It has long been a favorite of mine. The Leaden Echo describes a young girl gazing at her image in a well, musing on what will become of her as she ages. Hopkins dwells on poignant images of diminishment in age, striking a somber note:
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
In the second half of the poem, The Golden Echo, the poet delves into the well of mysticism and seems to say that in God there is no diminishment. In God we ARE beauty, “beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.”
The flower of beauty…
Never fleets more, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being…
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God
Beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
….The thing we freely forfeit is kept with fonder a care
-Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where-
Yonder.-What high as that! We follow, now we follow,-
Yonder, yes yonder, yonder, yonder.
A good spiritual practice for spring would be beauty-mindfulness. We could actually take a lunch break, sit outside and let our senses drink in beauty. We could sit alone with our sandwich in a cafe sans technology, paying attention to the beauty we see in the appearance and actions of people. In God there is no diminishment. In God there is only beauty.
Photo Credit: Sarah Levinson used with permission
https://m.youtube.com/?reload=2&rdm=1hu3wd4y1#/watch?v=JsosOoSdMv8Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Time
There is a space where two disparate souls can meet and dwell in peace, even if only for a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Those few minutes can keep a relationship alive and thriving for a long time if we learn how to get out of the way of our judgments. If we can believe that we are connected in that space even world peace is possible.
Last week I posted Thich Naht Hahn’s poem, “Call Me by My True Names.” In it he reminds us of our call to compassion with, the lines
“I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.”
I am still struggling to get out of the way of the pirate’s evil deed in order to enter into the sacred space where we are one. I believe in the space and I know that in order to enter it I have to leave dualistic thinking behind. Thinking like, “Pirate evil. Me good.” Meister Eckhart tells us
The eye with which I see god
is the same eye with which god sees me.
My eye and God’s eye are one.
One seeing, one knowing, one loving.
If the eye with which the pirate sees god is the same eye with which god sees the pirate, why is it so hard to believe that the space where the pirate is seen by god is the same space where I am seen by god, and it is holy. If we can live in that space long enough we are home. We arrive with all our faults and we are loved anyway…both of us.
I have found that I cannot believe this with my mind. The only way I can begin to feel compassion for the pirate is to go into the eye of god. I rediscovered a mantra given to me by Spirit in another blog. It has been helpful:
Breathing in I welcome the other.
Breathing out I release judgment.
Breathing in I am at one with the other
Breathing out I release duality.
Photo Credits for the eyes in god’s eye:
a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotosmaniya968334809~FreeBirD®~a via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca (2)
a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotosmaniya968334809~FreeBirD®~a via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca
a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotosadamcohn2515866014AdamCohna via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca
a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotos69er463302758Mohammed Alnasera via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca
Spring has arrived today in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. 73 degrees and sunshine lured me out to the lake to ponder the message it might have for me. It’s astounding that such a small, seemingly inconsequential event can awaken us to the essence of life.
“The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God. ” § Meister Eckhart
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.
Do not hold out
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
for the air.
A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart.
We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why thirty or forty
skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your
own ground and learn to know yourself there. Meister Eckhart
“The eye with which I see God
Is the same eye with which God sees me.
My eye and God’s eye are one.
One seeing. One knowing. One loving.”
As a young and naïve theology student, I took a course on process theology, and it changed my life. Faithful adherents of institutional doctrine would say it changed me for the worst. You be the judge. This post comes out of personal experience. I walked out of that class one day and met a friend who asked, “How are you?” I replied, “Well, currently, I seem to be an atheist.” Laughing, he claimed that atheists make the best Christians. Subsequently, I spent several months researching mystics, and I regained God, in a rich and unexpected experience. God had become my own greatest potential already realized, and thirty-four years later, this is still my experience.
The church branded Meister Eckhart a heretic for preaching that, “My eye and God’s eye are one,” “All that is [exists] is in God,” “We are sparks of the divine.” Eckhart denied the charge. I have studied and prayed with this profound mystic for a very long time, and I am finally old enough to realize that he was indeed saying at least, that we are growing into our divinity. Is not a spark of fire, fire? It may not be the whole campfire, but when a spark flies up and singes the hairs on a camper’s arm, he knows it’s fire! I believe that God is our own greatest potential already realized, and we unveil it minute by minute, day by day.
By seeing. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one seeing.” Soul-sight differs from soul-seeing. It comes from God as a package deal, but we have to learn how to see with it. We can’t see a painting with the eye of an artist without developing an artist’s skills; similarly, we don’t see with our soul-eye without developing spiritual intuition.
By knowing. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one knowing.” Most readers of the Hebrew Scriptures understand that Biblical Knowing refers to sexual intercourse. Adam knew Eve, and they had a son….The meaning can also go much deeper, describing a profound act of contemplation. There really are not words which adequately describe union with God, but here is an attempt. Individual sparks unite to make a fire, until they become indistinguishable. The spark is the fire, and the fire is the spark. If we are to experience this kind of knowing, we need to identify the lost fragments of our souls, and bring them back.
By loving. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one loving.” Knowing leads to loving. We must learn to love our lost soul-fragments. When we do, all the pieces will come together in that acceptance, and we will know and love God within our wholeness. If God is our greatest potential already realized, loving ourselves is loving God.
Blending visual art and words and music are ways to draw us deep into the eye of God. It doesn’t matter if our attempt falls short of expectations. I don’t really know how to draw or compose music. I just let go and do it, trusting that you will forgive my ignorance! Here I have created a mantra and put it to a simple Gregorian chant. When I can catch a space, I sing it repeatedly within the quiet of my soul and it sometimes brings me into contemplation, at least for a moment. Feel free to download this image and make a bookmark of it as a reminder.
The essence of joy is detachment. Pure joy is an experience of ecstasy, in which we stand outside of ourselves. It is like the baby featured recently on YouTube. Every time his father tore a piece of paper, the baby erupted into peals of spontaneous gut-giggles(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc. (I dare you to refrain from giggling.) True joy is standing outside of all ego-judgments, and entering into an experience feet first.
Walking along the Puget Sound waterfront in 80 degree weather, I met a Vietnam Vet walking his white shih Tzu, “Pootie.” “Pootie is a service dog trained to create a peaceful environment for the vets he visits at the VA hospital. Time enjoyed with “Pootie” lowers blood pressure, and keeps the demons of PTSD at bay, at least during this sacred, liminal time. This little Shih Tzu seems to have the same effect on his owner. As we chatted there in the glorious sun, joy emanated from this vet and made its home in me.
A walk along Echo Lake began with my daily encounter with “Beautiful,” a magnificent Great Blue Heron. Escaping notice at first, I finally spotted her hiding among the cattails. “There you are!” I cheered. She stretched her long neck and turned her head sideways, the better to see me. I serenaded her with, “How are you today, Beautiful? It’s so delightful to see you again. Thank you for coming.” And she slowly plodded her way over to within ten feet of me. Watching. Listening. Honest.
I continued on to the lake’s end, and watched three groups of people fish. A man walked by me with an eight inch pink-speckled trout dangling from his thumb. His nearly toothless grin and tattered coveralls conjured images of Tom and Huck playing along the shores of Old Man River. I greeted the fisher with, “You caught one!” He smiled widely and announced, “Oh, I caught a few. You want this one?” I hesitated as a movie of me walking home and into the lobby of my apartment building with this fish dangling from my thumb, played out in my head. Tom caught my hesitation and in a mournful tone exclaimed, “You don’t like FISH?” I rushed to explain my dilemma, which he graciously understood. I wish I had accepted Tom’s gift. I could have mounted it on my wall and framed it with a plaque cautioning, “DON’T LOOK A GIFT FISH IN THE MOUTH.”
In 1982, two years after my sojourn in Berkeley, I moved from a small provincial town to Capitol Hill in Seattle. Finally, I could breathe again! Capitol Hill is home to many citizens of the kingdom of Out-of-the-Box. Last week, in 2013, I had returned for an appointment and joyously wasted time strolling down 15th Avenue. I was ecstatic to rediscover the Bagel Deli, which was established in 1980. Last year it was awarded the title, “Best Bagel in Seattle.” Still crazy, after all these years!” (Thank you, Paul Simon.)
Inside, delicious memories, not all culinary, wafted around the loft like ghosts looking for a hostess: stimulating conversationalists, friends always up for a good belly laugh, lox and bagels to die for. It had been a time in my prime, when my body and my mind still cooperated with me. I sat at a table beside a wall of windows thrown open to lure in the cool Puget Sound breeze on this warmish day. Before pouncing on my bagel, I “gave thanks for all that has been, and said yes to all that will be.” (Dag Hammarskjold)
Some people write gratitudes at each day’s closing. I savor these glimpses of joy as reminders of what God can do in me if I jump in feet first. Nourish us with your own glimpses of joy in the comment section, if you feel so moved.