Spiritual Sleuthing

Sherlock Portrait 3-22-16

My boy is huuuuge and as sweet as can be.  This morning he taught me for the hundredth time to be brave and patient and take myself less seriously.

 

Spiritual Sleuthing

Sherlock sits somnolently in the spotlight
Of brilliant morning sun-
Until an orange fur fluff catches his eye
And he leaps head over heals to bring it down.
Such a vigilant sleuth, in sooth.

When last did I leap head over heels?
I will wait for a spiritbeam to burst
Through this hungry chink in my soul
Then spring into action like a gangly tween
Desperately tumbling toward her one true BFF.
Such a rollercoaster, this thing we call the Spiritual Path.

© Rita h kowats November 25, 2016

Let Go of Letting Go

marionette woman

Letting Go of Letting Go

My puppets’ strings lie limp
Against their hardened bodies
Which hang on walls
In the foyers of their souls…

Until I barge in
To yank and pull and prod:

“You should let go of that passion- too sensitive.
yank
“You should let go of your desire to save the world.”
pull
“You should let go of your frenetic pace.”
yank

No.  
Detach the strings.

Welcome zealots and compassionate warriors
Into sacred space where they are free
To live from this moment
Into another moment.

Let go of your need to let go.
Live.  No strings attached.

© rita h kowats 6-9-16

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996586683@N01/3791531918“>Wendy shadow puppet</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/“>(license)</a>

 
 

 

Elevator Interludes

Life in 55+ housing has no dull moments.  I’ve lived on the sixth floor of such a building for two years, and the adjustment has run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes all on the same day!  The elevator provides a rich assortment of spiritual practices around patience and compassion with others and oneself.  For example, I’m learning to laugh at myself after I have walked halfway around a hallway in search of my apartment which is on another floor.  Hey.  If I’m having a lively chat with a neighbor who gets off on floor five, why not continue the conversation?  You would think that by now I would have memorized the paintings in front of the elevator on each floor, or at least, look at the floor number before I get off.  Then there’s moving days, when through no fault of their own, departing tenants hold up the elevator on their floor.  Patience.  Tenants on wheels slow things down.  Tenants standing in the open door talking or holding it for someone down the hall slow me down.  Several times a day I have to let go.  It’s ever so good for me;  however, my internal dialogue can become quite colorful at times.

We have a custom of putting out unwanted items by the elevator for anyone to pick up.  When my cat died I put out her little pink carrier and it was gone within ten minutes.  So, on Saturday someone on my floor put out an antique end table with three drawers which I thought could nicely replace the inadequate one I had.  I carried it to my apartment and rearranged everything.  Excited to re-gift the end table I replaced, I put it out by the elevator.  Finally, I settled down to read with all my accoutrements neatly organized nearby.  Alas, within the hour I had an allergic reaction.  The end table had mold in it.  Upon examination, I also discovered a dangling leg.  Another opportunity to learn patience.  I decided to try taking the high road.  I’ll retrieve my inadequate end table and take this one down to the recycling, I thought.  I went in search, and you guessed it, the table had already been snatched up.  My disappointment was eased by the knowledge that I helped out someone else, just as I thought I was being helped out.  The office opening at day’s start yesterday, found me there checking out a cart to take the broken and moldy table downstairs.  Outside my apartment, where the table sat, I met Mandy, the house cleaner.  She asked what I planned to do with the table.  I told her.  “Oh, she said, I’ll take it for my daughter’s room.  I’m a cabinet maker.  I can fix this easily.”  And she already had decorating plans for it.

There are days that I long for my spacious condo, sans elevator, but I wouldn’t miss these little opportunities to let go, for the world.  I’m convinced that we grow old the way we live.  Life in a 55+ is the playground of the sublime and the ridiculous.

Adaptations of the Soul

4187-4457

While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat.  He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat.  At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface.  At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves.  The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving  its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.

Adapting.  And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment?  Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot.  We survive and we often thrive.  Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us.  Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived.  I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation.  You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it.  These choices have redeemed me at times:

1.  Be Faithful

To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.

2.  Be Helpful

Seek out viable and positive service opportunities.  Service takes us out of ourselves.

3.  Be Creative

Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music)  Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.

4.  Be Communal

Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.

These adaptations get me through the heat of the day:  Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.

The Ice Holds A Year Later

Stepping Out  Jpeg double sized

For Mary

One year after the unexpected death of my sister I still step gingerly.  When we grieve we learn that all we CAN do is step out.  If we step in harmony with the pain, we become sure-footed.  The pain transforms from foe to friend, and we endure in spite of the loss.

My spiritual practice has been intentionality.  I ask for the grace to stay conscious, to recognize each wave of grief and to honor my humanity by feeling it.  It has also helped me to be aware of my sister’s continued presence in a new way.  I have prayed for her spirit as she transitions into this new and unknown existance.  And I have practiced letting her go.

Two gifts have emerged from this experience:  reinforcement that the ice holds, and realization that we are not in control.  Now I try to live into these truths, and to be in solidarity with others who grieve.

2006, poss, Mary feeding lambs

Caring for Anger

caring for anger

For Warmth

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep my loneliness warm-
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

Thicht Naht Hanh

Deep-seated, out-of-control anger is a serious illness in need of intentional and consistent ministering to ourselves by ourselves.  Spiritual practice is not a process detached from our bodies.  Because anger is a dis-ease of the soul which ravishes the body as well, our practice must use the body to heal the soul, and use the soul to heal the body…”Two hands preventing my soul from leaving me in anger.”  Thicht Naht Hahn is not just speaking metaphorically.

Of course, good health dictates that we reveal anger to ourselves.  We need to know its cause and its effects before we can let it go.  This is the work of the mind.  To let go is the work of the spirit.  Solid, healthy spiritual practice never labels anger as bad in itself.  As with all human limitations which impede spiritual growth, unbridled anger is released through a process of letting go, letting be, and breaking through to the Godhead (Meister Eckhart’s description.)

It doesn’t work to violently chisel away at our anger, forcing it to go away and leave us in peace.  Violence begets violence.  Instead, we can use a ritual to free ourselves.   Deeply moved by Thicht Naht Hanh’s practice of caring for anger, I have developed a ritual which some of my readers may also find helpful.  This is an intuitive ritual best done apart from the necessary analytical exercises used to determine the nature of our anger.  I choose a quiet space with a meaningful focal point, such as a candle and a symbol.  While centering, I call upon the Spirit to guide me.   I take my face in my two hands and repeat these mantras until I feel ready to move on.  When possible, I journal how the Spirit moved me as I prayed, before I move away from this sacred liminal time.  I set aside time for the ritual daily, until it is no longer needed .  Other times the need for it arises unexpectedly, so I retreat to my “inner room” wherever I am, and say all or part of the ritual to restore my equilibrium.

**First Mantra** Breathe while saying the words.  Soon their rhythm will take you to a sacred place.

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I nourish my soul.

Breathing out    I release pain.

**Second Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I protect my soul.

Breathing out    I release loneliness and rejection.

 **Third Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

 Breathing in        I am filled with peace.

Breathing out    I release resentment.

**Last Mantra**

I stand in peace before the Holy One.

Breathing in        my soul returns.

Breathing out    I become whole.

My face in my two hands holding my soul.   Amen.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

I first came upon “For Warmth” in a little book by Thicht Naht Hanh, Be Free Where You Are.  It is a collection of meditations he shared with prisoners to empower them in coping with their incarceration.  One can put the book in a pocket or bag and read a page or a line while busily navigating through his/her own particular incarcerations.  I recommend it.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”: A New Twist

ME quote

I used to raise consciousness at a navy subase about the violence inherent in possessing and using nuclear weapons.  Weekly, a worker drove through into the base as I passed out leaflets.  His truck carried a rifle rack and he looked straight ahead, never acknowledging my presence.  I was convinced that he was an irreconcilable “redneck” who surely hated this “bleeding heart liberal.”  One day he seemed different.  His despondence was palatable.  I responded to it by blurting out, “How are you?”  He shouted back, “How am I?  I’m terrible.  How else would I be having to go in there every day and do what I have to do?”  I had reduced him to my erroneous perception of him.  In the spirit of today’s Eckhart quote, I would say I had divided him from his true self by dwelling on what I thought to be his flaws.  Not exactly following the call to love God with my whole heart, and my neighbor as myself.

As human beings we seem destined to make judgments about one another.  Nothing alarming about it- it’s the human condition; however, when we choose to dwell on the flaws of others until that’s all we see- it divides us from our own best self, from the other, and from God.  We are all more than our flaws.

My meditation birthed this prayer.  If it speaks to you too, I thank the Spirit:

Undivided Heart Prayer

“When the soul wants to experience something, she throws out an image in front of her and steps into it.” Meister Eckhart

001  Quilt by Nadine Meeker

The soul knows what she wants, even if our ego is confused.  She casts out invitations, and like stones cast on gentle water, they ripple out, and touch every aspect of our lives.

Images from the soul are spontaneous lights from the Godhead.  The soul casts them out, and stepping into the light, she waits until we are conscious enough to see and respond.  We can teach ourselves how to be aware of the invitations by fidelity to two spiritual practices.  First, we can view synchronous events as invitations from our soul, and daily ask for the grace to pay attention to them. With practice, we can learn to focus intentionally on our surroundings and interactions with people, staying open to the possibilities they “throw out.”  For example, one day I may have a dream about a one-time friend, in which he wrestles with strong emotions.  The next day I stumble upon an article about grieving that touches on my recent experience of loss, and I think again of the dream and become concerned about my friend with no apparent cause; however, I resist the urge to shrug it off with, “Oh, it’s ‘just’ a coincidence.”  I ask myself what images surround my friend when I think about him? What images surround me?  What feelings do these experiences evoke about him and about me?  I decide to inquire about his well-being from a mutual friend, and learn that his mother died at the same time as I lost a loved one.  The synchronistic event becomes an invitation cast out to me, and if I respond to its light, I grow.

We can develop our imaginations by devoting time to creative expression.  Time spent drawing, painting, writing, making music, dancing, etc., is liminal time…the space in between, in which the soul casts her sacred images.  If we work 9-5 and surround ourselves with people and frantic activity 24-7, there is no time to create, and we will miss the light.

Writing this reflection has been a good examin for myself.  May the soul’s images astound us.