“Our souls have always understood that everything is interconnected. And radiantly beautiful. And good.”
While out walking a week ago, I stopped to view irises blooming in an obviously untended bed in front of a house that has been vacant for months. Showing complete disregard for the lack of support or tending from anyone, these irises chose to bloom for no reason.
So many are feeling the tension rising over when and how to safely emerge from the pandemic, and despairing over the news about another shooting or the crisis at the border.
And still so many people are blooming. Whether it’s a trip to be with loved ones now that they are fully vaccinated or joyfully making plans for other events, people are finding hope and beauty everywhere.
I like to believe as Mirabai said in the quote above that “our souls have always understood that everything is interconnected.” So when one of us blooms, we help others move closer to blooming when they are ready. I know those irises helped shift something within me.
May you bloom for no reason and may your blooming enable people you’ll never meet to breathe easier, smile a bit more, feel peace in their mind and hope in their heart.
“We always think of hope as grounded in the future. That’s wrong, I think. Hope is fulfilled in the future but it depends on our ability to remember that, like Jacob [Genesis 32:22-32], we have survived everything in life to this point – and have emerged in even better form than we were when those troubles began.”
–Sr. Joan D. Chittister
What gifts from the struggles of the past year are you bringing with you as you plan for and embark upon new adventures this spring and summer?
Taking time to pause, reflect, and plan can help us move forward with hope and confidence and make the most of this spring energy.
Cathey Capers offers a beautiful reflection on the March session of her new program, Poetry of the Present (see below). Within it, you will find poems, quotes, and wisdom to inspire you for your own weekend reflection.
May you remember the strength and wisdom gained this past year as you embark upon this next phase of life. And may these memories of what you have overcome to date give you hope when fears arise.
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
― Khalil Gibran
“Hope is what sits by a window and waits for one more dawn, despite the fact that there isn’t an ounce of proof in tonight’s black, black sky that it can possibly come.”
― Sr. Joan D. Chittister
I’ve been privileged by being invited to offer quarterly poetry offerings through Eremos this year. Our theme, Poetry of the Present echoes and helps to unpack the theme for Eremos throughout 2021, Unfolding: Being Present to Life. Because the poetry gatherings are limited to twelve participants, and because I found our time together to be so fruitful, I wanted to share with the larger community a taste of these fruits.
Meister Eckhardt offers this powerful suggestion about the power of images…
When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out in front of her and enters into her own image.
We began, as I invite you to, by allowing an image of unfolding to reveal itself.
John O’Donohue left us with this beautiful image he offered himself in his poem, Fluent:
I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.
What is an image of unfolding that supports your desire for Presence? What is a quality you associate with that image that appeals to you?
What emerged in our group could be translated into a poem! Fluid as a fountain, solid as a small bud, ephemeral as light, morning, day, fragrant as flowers…images as varied as ourselves that help us embody this notion of unfolding. Notable as well were the gestures that unconsciously arose to echo the expansiveness and inclusiveness of the images, and the opening or unfolding of ourselves to embrace these personal images.
Inspired by the poem My Four Year-Old Poetry Teacher, we took a journey back in time to the childhood sense of noticing and unabashed descriptions that pour forth…
…blunt and new
like the colour of the girl’s hair
in your drawing
that is neither brown nor blonde
and you tell me
it is like a paper bag
which of course it is
and how you describe
and that a frog
would feel like a bird
if you held it tight
in your hand…
Do you remember a time when things seemed more obvious? Can you return to that open sense of noticing, those sensual descriptions from your experience that bring you wholeheartedly into the present?
As we live through this Easter season, and especially following our deep freeze, we are likely noticing, more than ever, what has come through, survived, is slowly resurrecting. Perhaps this is most evident in the landscape- the new leaves unfurling, a green stem pushing through the weight of dead brown leaves. Neighbors re-sculpting the agaves. What might this suggest to us as we approach post-pandemic times?
Derek Mahon offered us a vision in his uncharacteristically hopeful poem, Everything is Going to Be All Right, which has turned out to be one of the most sought after poems throughout the pandemic.
Everything Is Going to Be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
~ Derek Mahon ~
Is there a word from this poem (unbidden, bright, flows), or a line, that speaks to you now? That catches your heart? Begin there, and allow words to flow through you onto a page… While a new season beckons, it is good to pause and give voice to what has passed through you in this most unprecedented of times. As John Fox, Founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine notes:
When we listen to or read poetry, when we respond to or write it, there is a chance to slow down and notice our lives. We reflect on what’s written on the page in order to integrate what’s living in the heart.
~ John Fox
May your heart remain watchful to the unfolding present and your soul stirred to pen new words!
Note: There are only two spaces left in Cathey Capers’ June 8th session of Poetry of the Present.
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“I dare you to move like today never happened before.”
–Lyrics from Dare You To Move by Switchfoot
As we slowly come out of our pandemic-induced way of being, we have an opportunity to embrace spring’s energy of renewal to emerge different than before.
Not trying to go backwards to old ways, we can slough off habits, beliefs, and ways of moving in the world that no longer serve us and open to something new.
Like children experiencing with wonder what’s before them, we too can move through these spring days allowing and delighting in the “new” all around and within us. The wisdom of Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh about practicing walking meditation speaks to the joys available to us when we move with this level of awareness:
“Mother Earth herself is a miracle. Each step is a miracle. Taking conscious steps on our beautiful planet can bring healing and happiness.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
May you dare yourself to experience and move through each day like it never happened before.
Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
― E.B. White
“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.”
As many of us both turn our gaze inward and look to celebrate safely with loved ones during Holy Week in the Christian tradition and Passover in the Jewish faith, there is an opportunity to open our hearts and minds to the unexpected.
There are miracles to be found in the transformational stories told this week in both of these faith traditions. After a year of so much heartache and times of being stretched-to-the-edges of our resilience, may we be strengthened by the hope and greater capacity for joy that can come on the other side of suffering.
Or, as Joyce Rupp so beautifully expresses: “And every year the dull and dead in us meets our ‘Easter challenge’: to be open to the unexpected, to believe beyond our security, to welcome God in every form, and trust in our own greening.”
May you open to the unexpected this week and may Spirit surprise you with delightful blessings beyond your imagining.
“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the unalienable right of every human being.”
― Morris Joseph
The Easter Challenge
Every year it happens:
earth shakes her sleepy head,
still a bit wintered and dull,
and feels new life stirring
Every year cocoons give up their treasures,
fresh shoots push through brown leaves,
seemingly dead branches shine with green,
and singing birds find their way home
Every year we hear the stories
empty tomb, surprised grievers,
runners with news and revelation,
conversations on the road,
tales of nets filling with fish,
and breakfast on a seashore
And every year
the dull and dead in us
meets our ‘”Easter challenge”:
to be open to the unexpected, to believe beyond our security, to welcome God in every form, and trust in our own greening.
― Joyce Rupp
“The smallest plant life in spring reveals to us both the challenge of being a spirit in human form and the quiet courage necessary to grow inwardly. For this is our deepest calling: how to turn light into food.”
Like savoring a delicious meal, I find myself enjoying the gift of this spring in ways I never have before. After a year of a devastating pandemic, turmoil in our country, and a brutal deep freeze that brought Texas to its knees, how beautiful it is to see the bluebonnets come again.
Arriving a little later than usual, still they arise and remind us of the inner strength of even the most tender and fragile of things.
Even as we continue to grieve the loss of loved ones to COVID-19, the horrific shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, and the too many other ways loved ones leave us too soon, spring still comes.
As Mark Nepo says so beautifully, “For like the nubs of shoots yet to break ground, we can’t help it. Something in our very fiber knows where the light is, even when we can’t see it.”
May the light and beauty of Spring 2021 nourish and renew your spirit. And may you savor the blessing and miracle of every bud opening, flower blooming, and leaf growing.
“As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” ― John Muir
In talking with people recently vaccinated, I’ve noticed their outlook on life has shifted. Vacations and long-imagined visits with family are being scheduled or at least explored with excitement.
Yet, so many are still playing a waiting game, concerned about when they’ll have a chance to be vaccinated and whether or not others will remember the need to wear a mask until enough of us have received the vaccine. And, of course, we can dive deeper into worry if we want to… Will enough people get vaccinated?
Maybe it’s time to hit the pause button on our concerns and wonder. Just wonder about what, when, and how the vaccine, the pandemic, and our lives will unfold.
Perhaps “wondering” can help us bridge the gap between those brimming with excitement and those anxious, restless, or frustrated. When we wonder our mind relaxes and compassion for self and others, possibilities, and even solutions can come in.
May you pause to rest in the silence and open to the inner gift of wondering. And may the excitement of those vaccinated spill over to those not-yet to help them imagine the possibilities…
“I have walked with so many people through the valley of darkness in grief and know there is another side. One can only go through each moment as it finds you.“ — Jean Springer
After such a stressful week for so many Texans and others impacted by severe weather, it can be tempting to strive to make up for lost time and pack in lots of to-do’s this week.
Our invitation is to resist that temptation and move slowly. Even if only from the stories of others, you likely suffered the trauma in your body and psyche.
In the wisdom of founder Jean Springer, “one can only go through each moment as it finds you.” So, don’t push or rush, meet each moment where you are and let a walk or rest in the sun work its healing magic upon you.
May you trust that all will get done as it needs to when you honor the pace your body, mind, and spirit call you to in each moment.
“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”
— Henry David Thoreau
As Austin, the state of Texas, and much of the country deal with unprecedented winter weather, the quote above gives me comfort.
Children and those lucky with power to keep their homes and loved ones warm are enjoying the beauty of the snow. Others are suffering from the devastation the storm has brought to the energy grid, homes, roads, people, animals, and land.
And through it all perhaps this time is “full of the divinity” as no one and no moment escapes “its fashioning hand.”
Friends are posting on social media how, even as they deal with cold homes, they’re keeping bird feeders full for the birds just as shocked by the weather here as we are. Others are sharing wisdom and tips for finding safe places to stay and how to best keep warm and fed. People are texting and calling to be sure we’re all okay. Kindness abounds.
Whatever your experience right now, may you find moments of the sure presence of the divine to keep your heart, mind, and body safe and warm.
One day, we think we dare to love
but find we’ve already given our heart
and have no choice but to work our fingers
in that unexpected garden. And unimaginable
things grow, through us, within us.
— Mark Nepo, first lines of After Mira.
A dear friend recently sent me a poem by Mark Nepo, After Mira, about his thoughts on love a year after the loss of their beloved “dog-child” Mira.
With the celebration of Valentine’s Day this Sunday, and after the recent loss of my four-legged companion, I’ve thought a lot about the many kinds of love there are. And acknowledging the risk of deep grief you sign up for when you open your heart to the fullness of the love that’s always possible for anyone and anything.
Some will do anything — including closing their hearts — to avoid ever feeling this kind of grief again once experienced. But I’m choosing to focus on the gifts of the love and honor the miracle Nepo describes in the closing words of his poem:
Against our will, our heart is remade by the
angel of grief who fists the center of our life,
shaking everything dead within us from our
branches, until the heart condenses to a
diamond. Hard as this is to endure,
this too is a miracle.
In this month of Love, may you honor and celebrate the many loves in your life and find the courage to open up to so much more. And may those grieving losses in this past year find the memories of the love ever so gently easing the pain and reawakening your heart.