“If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true, do not say it.” ― Marcus Aurelius*
In his program this past Sunday, Rabbi Rami Shapiro invited us into the practice of Passage Meditation. He shared that memorizing sacred wisdom is like planting seeds within our consciousness to grow, flourish, and come back to us when we need it.
As we move into a time of heightened tension in our country prior to the election, it feels as if the quote above from Marcus Aurelius is worth memorizing and remembering before we speak (or write) to anyone about what’s occurring in our country and world.
What sacred words of wisdom can you hold in your heart and mind right now to carry you through these next few months? If you already have a favorite text, poem, quote, or mantra that’s bringing you peace, hope, and faith, please share it with me. It would be great to have a page on our website filled with the wisdom that is supporting our community right now!
May you allow the wisdom of sages and mystics to fill your heart and mind with inspiration to see you through these challenging days. And may this wisdom inspire you to be part of the change our world needs in whatever way is right for you.
*In his book, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent, Rami Shapiro said about this quote: “If you need a bumper-sticker summation of the way of spirit this would be it.”
“Living an enlightened life means respectfully engaging with what is and then doing your best to make what is next a bit more loving, kind, peaceful, and just.” ― Rabbi Rami Shapiro
How do we get through the relentless challenges of COVID-19 and the ugliness the chaos of this time is revealing in our world?
The answers are likely varied for each of us. In addition to morning walks and silent pauses, I am seeking and finding more ways to consciously walk through my days with the Source of All That Is. It is that intention that inspired the idea of our new “Being with The Divine” series, featuring Rabbi Rami Shapiro on August 2nd.
Many of us are hungry for uplifting ideas and practices that help us sense God’s presence in what’s unfolding right now. And, we seek ways to help “make what is next a bit more loving, kind, peaceful, and just“, as Rabbi Rami so beautifully said.
If this intention calls to you, please join us online Sunday for what promises to be an inspiring conversation filled with wisdom, humor, and thought-provoking perspectives on how to be in the world right now, including using the contemplative practice of Passage Meditation.
May you be part of making our world a bit more loving, kind, peaceful, and just, as we evolve into what’s next.
“When you die and meet God four questions will be asked of you: Did you make time for learning wisdom? Did you devote sufficient energy to your family? Did you conduct your business with integrity? Did you always maintain hope?” ― Talmud, Shabbat 31A, as quoted in Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent by Rabbi Rami Shapiro.
“Did you always maintain hope?” This question posed in the quote above struck me as a powerful call in these chaotic days. I find hope is as necessary for my health and peace of mind right now as sacred pauses are.
Hope is often maligned as wishful thinking; however, in her book Mystical Hope, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of hope as an abiding wellspring within that is a source of connection to God. I’m looking forward to asking Rabbi Rami Shapiro to speak to the deeper meaning of hope in the Jewish religion when he’s with us on Sunday afternoon, August 2nd.
In the meantime, I’m envisioning the comet NEOWISE, streaking across the sky right now, showering us with new (neo) wisdom (something I heard that I’m passing on to you). That idea makes me smile and fills me with hope. What gives you hope?
May you seek and find signs of hope within and all around you and may the power of hope bring you peace.
Carrying the Divine in our hearts ― and pausing often to remember that we do so ― seems to be the only way to walk through these days with hope and peace in our hearts.
Whether or not you choose to join us for our Ignatian Contemplation Series or one of our many program offerings, please know that we’re here to support you in navigating this challenging time.
May you be blessed by the awareness of the Light of the Divine within you and may you sense the peace and safety that comes from anchoring in and shining this Light.
P.S. Four facilitators have come together to create a powerful program for the under and unemployed. Please check out or share the information about the Re-Member program offering below. Only $5 for three 90-minute sessions, beginning Thursday, July 23rd.
P.P.S.If you loved our June Book Reflection Series on Pema Chödrön’s book, Welcoming the Unwelcome, we recently heard of a great virtual weekend retreat with her through the Omega Institute that you might enjoy. You can find out more here.
“Where there is light, there must be shadow, where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow…”—Haruki Murakami
What uncertainty we find ourselves living through. It is tempting to turn off the radio and TV, stop reading the newspaper or news feed and withdraw. There is just too much to process and everything seems so unlike what has gone before. Do you find yourself praying fervently for wisdom for those in leadership at all levels, for an end to the violence, and true understanding on all sides? Or is there a lack of direction, lack of focus in your life right now?
Despite all of the inner and outer turmoil, it is June, when “the world of leaf and blade and flowers explodes, and every sunset is different,” wrote John Steinbeck. Each day the world outside our door offers soft breezes and sunshine. Gardens are growing, the grass is green, and flowers are blooming. If you take time to walk and notice, the world around you is lovely, inviting.
Take tender care of yourself and those around you. We will get through this uncertainty, perhaps not with certainty, but with creativity and love.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ―Alan W. Watts
Guest blog post reposted with permission by Eremos’ friend, Carolyn Scarborough. You can find the original blog post and more at www.carolynscarborough.com.
Last week a family member shared some upsetting news, and I just lost it. I couldn’t be “strong” or “hold it together.” So, I did what I do when I need healing – I took a walk, even though it was late and dark outside.
I started thinking about all the things that were tilted in my life, from the pandemic to the news I had just heard. I was getting more and more upset wondering what to do until suddenly, out of nowhere, three words popped into my head.
I don’t know.
In the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the Greek father often would shrug his shoulders about things beyond his control and lament “I don’t know.”
I decided to try it out. When will the pandemic end? I don’t know. When will I be able to feel safe eating in a restaurant? I don’t know. How will my business and creativity be affected? I don’t know.
I started thinking about how I was even confused about what makes me happy right now. I thought I knew what it was, but I’ve not been so clear of late. When that happens, I feel scared. It’s a loss of control and surety. Yet in this moment, I didn’t feel worried at all. I let out a big exhale and almost shouted the words aloud I don’t know! Immediately, I felt better.
It felt like surrendering the steering wheel to something much bigger. Suddenly, I didn’t have to hold it all together. To control or plan things. To exhaust myself trying fruitlessly to bend life to my will. To have the right answer. Or the wrong one. I simply don’t know.
It also felt truthful. Incredibly so. I realized how many times I tell myself that I know what will happen next, how I’ll react, what I’ll do… when ultimately I have no idea. Often that thought terrifies me. But this time, it didn’t feel like a fear but a complete, glorious surrender. Finally, I could rest in the present moment.
As I walked through the darkness, the half-moon glinting between the trees, crickets chirping, the sound of the breeze swaying the leaves, I felt held. Loved. Deeply connected.
I also heard through the moonlight the whisper of mystery, and the expansiveness that comes with not knowing. When I’m in this place, my mind lets go rather than hoarding painful thoughts and imaginings. Possibilities are limitless. I get out of the way and life has a chance to surprise me, delight me, or grow me in ways I didn’t imagine, but ultimately needed.
As I rounded the bend towards home, I was almost weeping with the freedom of those three words. As for what’s next, all I know is that, I don’t know. Thank goodness…
What are you ready to admit you don’t know in this moment? Whisper it, shout it, or write it in the comments section on the blog page!
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Doug Fritzsche
Toilet paper, Tiger King and Time Itself: I’d call it the triumph of the trivial. What I’d look back on – assuming I’d look back on – all this: sequestration, coronavirus, pandemic, lockdown, whatever-you-call-it. The vacuum left when everything routine was shut off, was filled with trivia. Nature abhors a vacuum.
At least that’s what Aristotle thought. He gets credit for the line about the vacuum. Probably something that came to him when he had been sucking on his thumb and pulled it out with a resonant “pop!”
Oh yeah. Snarky. This stuff can make you snarky, too.
I have heard so many people opining on the after-life – that is, the life after “this” is over. So many, in fact, I wonder at the theology of it all. As if to reassure us, public figures like Governors’ Cuomo and Newsome soothingly assert “we Will get through this.” And I hear it often enough that I wonder, “Is this all just a meaningless spell suspensefully awaiting …. and awaiting …. and awaiting.”
Among the invaluable treasures I have gleaned in recent days is the assurance that toilet paper production is almost entirely domestic, and that there is adequate capacity regardless of panic buying. That had never crossed my mind. Honest. And that there is a subculture viciously interacting over the care and feeding of jungle animals in sunny Florida. Or that French geologist Michael Siffre spent two months in a darkened cave and discovered that his sense of passing time was off – by a lot. (That last, I think, was to reassure those who have missed Zoom meetings and forgotten it was Wednesday in the bland wasteland of unscheduled lockdown.)
If we’re all a bit adrift, who can blame us? If diving off a platform of normalcy into a well of uncertainty isn’t cause for real grief, what is? Dissociation – call it denial if you will – is as human a response as disconnecting your awareness awaiting, open-mouthed, the first incursions of your dentist. Checking out.
Are we just spinning our wheels? I think not. And in thinking not, I want to affirm the worth of creation – and you in it. As a Christian, I am this time of year entranced by the events around Easter. (“What did you give up for Lent this year?” “Oh, everything.”)
And while much is made of the cross and atonement and such, I’ll leave that for wiser heads. I’m fascinated by the bookend events: On one side is Pilate, the powerful governor asking Jesus-in-chains, “What is truth?” Entitled Pilate asks it with the dismissive confidence of one who has heard it all before. Jesus, of course, says nothing.
On the other side of the cross is an empty tomb. And, while part of the story is Resurrection, just as big a part is the simple assertion that whatever you thought you knew. Whatever was obvious. Whatever goes without saying. It isn’t the end of the story. It isn’t all.
“As I sit with all of this, I have found my focus for contemplative prayer this week, Kay Ryan’s poem “The Niagara River”, to be helpful. I offer it to you as well:
The Niagara River
By Kay Ryan
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
As it moves along,
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Dr. Mona West
Often the word “virtual” is contrasted with the idea of “in person.” A lot of virtual activity is taking place these days with the social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. People who observe Holy Week, Sunday, April 5 through Sunday, April 11 this year will need to find ways to do that “virtually” because churches are not holding services “in person”. Many churches will be live streaming Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services so that people who want to journey with like-minded pilgrims can do so.
When you think about it, all Holy Week services, in the history of the Christian Church have been virtual. Christians have re-enacted the events of those weeks, entering into their transformative power, without having been there “in person.”
Holy Week invites us deeply into the rhythm of transformation and these are some ways we at Eremos can make this journey together:
- Make an altar in your home or in your yard and place something on it each day of the week as a sign of your intention for that day. As the week progresses, notice how each object relates to the other, creating a story of transformation.
- Reflect on themes of transformation that arise for you from the events of the week as told in the Christian tradition. Focus on a particular theme for each day and spend time journaling about it, creating art, or spending time in quiet reflection.
- In your home, or in your yard, create “stations of transformation” and spend time at one or all of them throughout each day of the week.
May the journeys we make toward Easter remind us that Divine Love has been let loose in the world and that all of creation is animated by it!
And, whatever your faith tradition, we invite you to pause at Noon every day through Holy Week, beginning this Sunday, April 5th, for five minutes of silence. You’re invited to read silently or express verbally this beautiful prayer for the world (you can also find a musical rendition of it on the internet):
May We Dwell in the Heart by Robert Gass
May I dwell in the heart
May I be free of suffering
May I be healed
May I be whole
May I be at peace
May all beings dwell in the heart
May all be free of suffering
May all beings heal in the heart
May we all be at peace
May you dwell in the heart
May you be free of suffering
May you be healed
May you be whole
May you be at peace
May all beings dwell in the heart
May all be free of suffering
May all beings heal in the heart
May we all be at peace
May we all come together virtually to offer hope and healing to all hearts, minds, and souls. Thank you for being part of our contemplative community without walls.
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Dr. Mona West
During this time of “sheltering in place” amidst the spread of Covid-19 I have been reminded of a phrase from ABBA Moses. He said, “your cell will teach you everything.” I learned that first hand when I spent a week at a monastery some years ago with no cell phone coverage and internet. Instead of leaving the world behind, I was faced with all the fears and judgements that came along with me to the monastery!
While many of us have access to virtual gatherings and internet services while we social distance to flatten the curve of this pandemic, there is still, I believe, an invitation to let our ‘cells at home’ teach us everything. That is what solitude and contemplation are all about—not an escape from the world or ourselves, but being grounded in the midst of it.
I had a profound awareness of this last week as I was using a favorite meditation app during my morning prayer time. The app had a flat graphic of the world with little dots clustered in various geographic locations indicating where in the world people were meditating. At that time there were seven thousand of us. As I moved into my time of meditation, I visualized that map of contemplation overlaying the maps I had seen with clusters of the corona virus outbreak. I felt part of a great web of people who were wrapping the world in compassion and peace.
In the days ahead, as we pause for those contemplative moments in our own lives, may we know that we are connected to this great web, “shaking, changing forever, forming, transforming.”
Web, by Denise Levertov
Intricate and untraceable
weaving and interweaving,
dark strand with light:
all spidery contrivance,
to link, not to entrap;
Elation, grief, joy, contrition,
shaking, changing forever
All praise, all praise to the great web.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
― Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich wrote these words at the beginning of the 15th century, in a world that had been decimated by the Black Plague. She offers us these simple words of hope when everything seems to be crashing around us. We will get through this particular passage. Panic is not needed. Instead, it is time for a calm head and a warm heart. And regular hand washing and doing what is best for our public health. Being cautious is not an act of fear, but one of responsibility. As a community, we can help each other.
Get good information. Don’t rely solely on social media or what someone else tells you. Find good information sources. If you do go to social media, consume it in small doses. Social media feeds on our fear and anger, plus there is a lot of misinformation too. Smart people around the world are working on this.
Some of the best things to do are exercise, eat nutritious food, sleep well, read and practice a lot of silence. Another perspective would be to embrace this opportunity to become more comfortable with the gifts that silence and solitude have to offer. Return to your spiritual practice. It is almost always best not to immediately react to your emotions. And your emotions are in a heightened state! Stop and take time to breathe. Get social support, go for walks with friends, talk on the phone and live in today. Hold your plans and schedule lightly. Practice gratitude. Find small beauties that make you happy and take time to enjoy them. I see the flowers pictured above in my front yard daily. I’ve begun a practice of taking the time to stop and notice.
Hope, trust, support, silence, breath, beauty–practice something other than fear.