Here’s some news of the planet with a video that’s mesmerizing in the early morning (with the sound turned off). Enjoy!
My mother serendipitously re-sent me a video that I had been searching for amongst my 4,000 saved e-mails. I am in need of this video on a regular basis, and once you see it, you’ll know why. I think I may have posted it before, but like looking up to see the horizon, it must be done often to stay sane. Enjoy, re-blog, share…repeat. (Not like shampoo instructions, which are entirely bogus. Who lathers twice in one shower?)
I can’t seem to get the screen posted right here, so click this link until I figure it out.
Well, okay, it seems that WordPress requires a space upgrade to get the screen to show. Please click the link, though. I promise your two minutes will be rewarded!
Change and the movement of life – flow and motion - energy passing through places and phases. Here I sit in an old house with the shades drawn and the ceiling fans going fast, aware that the heat index is at a level that prompted my employer to call most of the staff and direct them to stay at home. It’s hot and humid…but only for now. This is what my street looked like in February:
I have been reading through some letters and journal entries that I wrote in the year 2007, the year before my husband died, when my teenaged girls were in serious distress and the entire family was in deep pain. Here’s a list of feelings I wrote about:
depression, disappointment, hurt, shame, guilt, disgust, loneliness, despair, anger/frustration, regret/sorrow, fatigue, pain, inadequacy, fear, fragility, helplessness
Here’s a list of feelings that I decorated with a jagged black boundary and labeled “Off Limits, Not Allowed”:
Beauty, Happiness, Joy, Love, Health, Excitement, Passion, Rest, Pleasure, Peace
I wrote: “What do you do with feelings? They’re supposed to have ‘a beginning, a middle, and an end’, but when you’ve had the same feelings swirling around you for a half a year, a year, several years — they aren’t just feelings anymore. They become a way of life. I feel like Job — afflicted with boils. These hives on my legs itch like crazy, and I have no clue why I have them. I just keep hoping they’ll just go away.”
When you attempt to stop the flow of energy and movement and turn your present feelings or thoughts into a way of life, it may seem like you’re taking control and choosing something you want. It may turn out to be something that mires you in suffering, however. That’s something of which to be aware. You could apply that to the physical environment: attempting to regulate the temperature and keep it at a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit as a chosen way of life may cause you to suffer inordinately whenever the temperature is much lower or higher than that. Aversion and attachment causes suffering. Letting go of them allows the dance of life to swirl you into new places. If you find joy in the movement and change of life, you will not be disappointed. If you insist on sitting in the same pile of ashes for years, you will inevitably feel itchy and uncomfortable. You can hope that changes miraculously, or you can get up and move. As Jesus said to the man sitting at the Sheep’s Gate Pool complaining and making excuses, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6) Do you want to enter the flow of life? It’s your choice…
Here endeth my sermon to myself.
While investigating a new follower, GYA today, I watched this YouTube clip from his May 17 post. Again, I had to ask myself about the source of my tears. (see my post Why These Tears? from 2 days ago) Watch it and see if you don’t have the same questions.
Okay, I’ll wait while you go get a tissue. Or watch it again. (I did both.)
I love his choice of song. It really puts the focus on the force of consciousness. What does your brain spend time on? Did you catch the comment by the one judge who said that it made her think that the things she worries about are “pathetic”? Pathetic. Sad. Sorrowful. Tearful. That we get stuck in negative and depressive patterns of thought surrounding circumstance is very sad to me. That there are other options, that we do have the capability to change our focus and probably our futures is the great joy. The tears are a double whammy. I am sad that seeing physical deformity and hearing the story of a child’s abandonment brings me to focus on depression by default. I am overjoyed to see that assumption shattered by the reality of a young man who enjoys love, the gift of a beautiful voice, and the opportunity to create a life that is satisfying to himself and an inspiration to others.
I hope that anyone reading this can take the time to IMAGINE today. Imagine the things you worry about dissolving in a broader perspective. Imagine your limitations transformed by the transcendence of judgment. “Handicaps” aren’t handicaps. Reality is neutral. You can make a positive or a negative judgment about them, and that will effect your experience of them. I really believe this is what we do with our enormous brains, but most of our culture thinks that’s metaphysical hocus-pocus and that quality of life is found in the nature of circumstances. “IF” conditions are right, you can be happy. Why not just be happy and never mind “conditions”? This is not my own idea, of course. It stems from centuries of Buddhist thought about suffering. I have only recently begun to see it illustrated in my Western life. So here’s the million dollar question: what is happiness and how can you discover it? My mother used to quote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” If so, joy is everywhere. Happiness is everywhere. It’s already here, then. It doesn’t need to be discovered; it may simply need to be uncovered. “Cleaning the windshield” is what Steve sometimes calls it. Get rid of the crud that keeps you from seeing the happiness that is all around. Imagine!
I am reading a book called After the Fire: The Destruction of the Lancaster County Amish by Randy-Michael Testa. Kirkus’ Review sums up the basics thus: “As a Harvard graduate student, former third-grade teacher at a Denver private school, and serious ethical thinker of Catholic persuasion and “morally tired” condition, Testa spent the summer of 1988 living with an Amish family in Lancaster County, where he conducted fieldwork for a Ph.D. thesis exploring a “community of faith”.”
Here is an excerpt that echoes all the discussions Steve & I have about living a life that embodies our values, a grounded life, a life of depth.
“…Dorothy Day once quoted from the Archbishop of Paris: ‘To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.’
“I stand barefooted thinking of Elam. Earlier in the week, he and I trooped across the Franklin and Marshall College campus to the library to look for some maps of the county. In lieu of classes, campus had been taken over for the summer. Everywhere there were boys in soccer gear and coaches in black shorts and white and black striped shirts blowing whistles and clapping their hands and yelling, ‘Atta boy! Good work! Good WORK!’
“Elam and I had just driven in from the farm. I had been up since five working in the sweltering barn, where I am regularly stung in the eyes by sweat rolling off my head. My white shirts are permanently stained yellow. I have gained ten pounds and back muscles. I sleep so soundly in the Stoltzfus house I sometimes awaken myself with my own snoring. So for all that, hearing the word ‘work’ in teh context of a soccer camp seemed like complete insanity.
“Elam turned to me and asked, ‘What is this?’
‘It’s a soccer camp,’ I said. I felt my soul tense.
‘What is ‘soccer’? Elam asked blank-faced.
‘It’s a sport. Like baseball.’ (I knew some Amish played baseball at family outings.) ‘These boys are here to learn how to play it better,’ I replied quickly.
‘But why? It’s a game,’ Elam said, puzzled.
‘These boys have paid money to come here to learn how to play a sport better,’ I repeated tersely.
‘But why would they go to school to learn a sport?’ he persisted.
‘Because the outside world doesn’t have or value productive, meaningful work for its young men, so it teaches them that it’s important to know how to play a sport well. This keeps them occupied until they go to college and THEN THEY PAY A LOT OF MONEY TO COME HERE AND ASK WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE!!!’
“I practically turned on him- and my own world. I shocked Elam with my vehemence. I shocked myself as well. I wondered what was happening to my view of the world.
“Now, standing in Levi’s meadow in the middle of the night, suddenly I understand what has happened. At this hour, in this stillness, among these people, life makes perfect sense. The outside world does not. I have become a witness.
“I return to the upstairs bedroom as the blue mantel clock in Elam and Rachel’s room chimes three, and fall asleep to a cow lowing in the moonlight.”
To live in a way that embodies your deepest values, despite persecution, propaganda, and perspiration. That seems like an honest life to me. I hope I have the courage to live like that.
(photos taken at Old World Wisconsin, the living history museum where I work as a costumed interpreter)
Hallelujahs all around! An all-inclusive Glory Be! Mendelssohn and Rimsky-Korsikov festival music with timpani and brass at breakfast. It feels great to be alive, any day! My Easter-oriented upbringing is always in the background, even though I’m facing Eastern lately. May JOY be universal, however you find it.
Today’s poetry prompt for NaPoWriMo was simply to go outside with a notebook and perhaps a camera and write a poem. So I did. I didn’t go any further than 4 steps beyond my porch stairs, sat down beneath the maple tree, and opened up. Miracles are all around.
Glorious ordinary wholly happy day
Treasure-hunting among the obvious
I shall not be in want
Fresh dandelions, wind-blown chimes
Bacon, my kitchen incense
Strawberries’ radiant red miracle
Greenery below, above; and vaulted space
A sanctuary innocent, unstained by shame
I call it Life.
Today is a good day to ponder the sacred, to feel that aching quiet deep below the surface, to stay with it long enough to taste its bitter and its sweet. Whatever form that takes. I have spent years wrapped in one particular expression of that endeavor, but today, I tried a new one. The NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) prompt for the day was a challenge to write a poem about an animal. I knew immediately what animal that had to be for me: an animal that I’ve admired in different stages of my development, from my earliest memories to the present day. One of my earliest posts was devoted to this animal, entitled “Nature’s great masterpeece…the only harmlesse great thing – John Donne”. As I closed my eyes, opened my heart, and began to brainstorm various words and phrases, I realized that I was indeed pondering the sacred. In order to invite you into that relationship, without influencing you too much, I will end my narrative here and simply share the photo and poem that arose and offer them as icons to stimulate your own thoughts.
Her skin was visible from outer space
criss-crossed trails in the dry expanse
seismic sections of caked mud
pulsing with the rhythm of the magma core.
She walked as continental plates on tip-toe
shuffling through the sanctuary of time
in ponderous planetary procession
chanting sighs that shook the stars.
She raised her tender tip
a stroking, soothing, searching spirit
a whisper enfleshed, intuitive, inquisitive
and opened her sky portals, fringed with boughs
so heaven could gaze freely down.
Her wisdom reigned in sacred skull,
the holy archways gleaming
until her desecration reduced
to catacombs of dripping blood
that mammoth cathedral.
The matriarchs lie raped in heaps
across the countryside.
No longer shall we place our heads
on gentle, heaving breasts to feel
the wide embrace of a universe.
Yesterday, I blogged several quotes from Thich Nhat Hahn. Last night, I came across a passage in Living Buddha, Living Christ that illuminated my journey through widowhood, change, and doubt.
“One day when you are plunged into the dark night of doubt, the images and notions that were helpful in the beginning no longer help. They only cover up the anguish and suffering that have begun to surface. Thomas Merton wrote, ‘The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation to doubt God Himself.’ This is a genuine risk. If you stick to an idea or an image of God and if you do not touch the reality of God, one day you will be plunged into doubt. According to Merton, ‘Here we are advancing beyond the stage where God made Himself accessible to our mind in simple and primitive images.’ Simple and primitive images may have been the object of our faith in God in the beginning, but as we advance, He becomes present without any image, beyond any satisfactory mental representation. We come to a point where any notion we had can no longer represent God.”
“The reality of God”…beyond any notion or representation, there is a reality, an experience. Returning regularly to this experience is what Thich Nhat Hahn refers to as “deep practice”. It requires awareness, mindfulness, being awake and paying attention. What is the experience of being in this living world?
I went for a walk yesterday in a strong wind and looked up to the trees. They were all swaying in their own way, in different directions, at different levels, different speeds. They have no notion that is “wind”. They have an experience.
The river touches the stones and mud in the river bed, it touches the banks, it touches the wind with its surface and reflects the trees that rise high above it. It inhabits its course without a concept or an image of anything.
I enjoy images. I become attached to them. Their primitive simplicity appeals to my limited brain and feels comfortable. I wonder now if that’s why I often become “stuck”. It’s as if I become unable to see the forest because I look so constantly at the trees. The experience of ‘forest’ is so much more.
When I was a cantor at my church, I’d sing a refrain during Vespers, framing the prayers that people offered up in the pews: “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”
Shepherd me, O God, beyond my doubts, wants, fears, images, and notions…from death into Life.
I got myself into a mood last night while Steve was gone. We had mailed out job applications earlier that day for Old World Wisconsin, a seasonal living history museum, and gradually my anxieties about my life and work began escalating. I searched the internet like a magic 8 ball, and the best advice I found was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
What is “work worth doing”? How do I want to spend my life’s energy? What is worth it? Am I even worthy of my life if I don’t do something worth doing with it? Steve came home to find me sitting in the dark, staring out the window. “Are you okay?” he asked tentatively. Fortunately, we both have the ability to laugh at our moods, acknowledge them and joke about them and pay attention to them without getting too attached to them. I did some doodling and some stream-of-consciousness writing and played my sopranino recorder a bit to loosen up and allow something to emerge. I fell asleep with this phrase in my head: “Teach peace”.
This morning my thoughts turned to flowers and Thich Nhat Hahn. He is one of the greatest teachers of peace, in my opinion. If you’ve never heard of him, I urge you to do a little research. Reading his books helped me through pivotal stages of grief and anger and crises of faith after my husband died. I got a very personal message from his words, but his vision is for the entire world as well. Peace begins internally and has consequences on a global scale. I do believe that. Today, I invite you to a meditation using Thich Nhat Hahn’s words and photos I took last summer of peonies from our garden. I hope it nudges you awake to the happiness in you…as it did for me!
“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”
– Thich Nhat Hahn, Being Peace
“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
“Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world.”
― Teachings on Love
“Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.”
”The earth is so beautiful. We are beautiful also. We can allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don’t need to wish our friends, ‘Peace be with you.’ Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment.”
Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.
Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.
Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.
- from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh
“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”