Sunday, December 21, 2008

Increasing the Light

Good morning! And welcome to the upside of the year. :) This morning at 7:04 am (EST) you may have slept (or sipped coffee) through the Winter Solstice. Now, thankfully, the light will increase, the nights will get shorter, the days longer. We have successfully navigated the darkest point of the year and are on our way to increasing light. I'm ready for that! :)

To celebrate the Winter Solstice, I offer the lyrics to a song I wrote back in 1995. My original vision was to invite the congregation to sing it during the candlelight portion of a Christmas Eve service, when the people in the pews turn and light the candles of the people next to them. (I love that.) If you'd like the music, e-mail me and I'll send it to you.

    Light My Way

    Light my way
    Let your brightness guide my life
    Light my way,
    Illuminate my night
    For the winter winds blow cold
    And sometimes
    I must walk alone
    Light my way
    Christ be born in me.

    Light my way
    Let forgiveness fill my heart
    Light my way
    Father, let the healing start
    For the hurt that we endure
    Is healed in love forevermore
    Light my way
    Christ be born in me.

    Ever the light shines on
    Carries the life, carries the song
    Oh let the light shine on in me.

    Light my way
    Wrap our world in arms of peace
    Light my way
    Blessed Son, for our release
    Let us look through eyes of love
    to meet your children, one and all
    In His name
    Christ be born in me.

May the light of Christ consciousness, the indestructible Love of God, and the hope and joy of life everlasting be ours as we grow in grace and understanding, sharing the Light we already are. Amen. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eve's lack of abundance mentality

Earlier this week I received the update from and found a really interesting idea that had never occurred to me before. I studied Genesis in seminary and was particularly drawn (still am) to the idea of us being made in God's image and likeness. I focused several projects on that idea and find that I continue to work with it in my own study and my daily life. If we accept ourselves as being truly made in God's image and likeness, what would that look like in our lives? I think if we could get a sense of our true, indestructible, unchangable oneness with God and with each other, everything in our inner lives and outer lives would balance in perfect peace. We face temptations daily--hourly!--to believe we are mere plodding flawed and sinful mortals. In our days, will we look for evidence that we are blessed or cursed? Will we celebrate the good gifts we've received or clamor in fear to try and fill the lack we are tempted to believe is real?

The idea from was that Eve's big mistake was in getting caught up in focusing on what she didn't have. I think that's a fascinating idea! Here was Eve, in paradise, walking and talking with God every day, sharing her life with a man who was made for her (literally), and she gets tempted to think that she somehow lacked something she needed. She's vulnerable to the promptings of the snake because a thought had taken hold in her mind that said there was more she needed, could have, had to have in order to be happy.

This Thanksgiving, my wish for us all is that we take our eyes off that one gleaming thing we want so badly--whether it's an apple, a nest egg, a new home, a relationship, or even better health--and look around at the richness of the paradise already here. Do you have love in your life? Is there pleasure in your day? Can you breathe, walk, connect with others--via phone, voice, Internet, or thought? Can you feel God in your day? Wouldn't it be great if we could grab hold of the richness of our blessings this holiday and really, really celebrate them? We truly have unlimited goodness to be thankful for. This year, more than ever before, I pray we will fully receive and give thanks for it, in a way that makes the angels sing with joy!

Wishing you peace and joy--and a loving, light-filled Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Silence praying

Ah, the last stanza of "How to be a poet" from one of my all-time favorite poets, Wendell Berry. The whole poem is worth reading at least half a dozen times (slowly, leisurely, in time with your breath). Find it today at Writer's Almanac:
    Accept what comes from silence.
    Make the best you can of it.
    Of the little words that come
    out of the silence, like prayers
    prayed back to the one who prays,
    make a poem that does not disturb
    the silence from which it came.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Waiting in faith

Lately it seems I have had many experiences in which I have to step forward in faith and then, trusting, wait for good (God) to show up. I'm sure God's already there (and here), but my eyes need to adjust to the change in light. Maybe that's a core experience for many of us. This poem from Writer's Almanac this morning reminded me of the quiet gleaming reality of love as it exists even now, especially now, as the world around us seems to churn and struggle.

The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

    It is a kind of love, is it not?
    How the cup holds the tea,
    How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
    How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
    Or toes. How soles of feet know
    Where they're supposed to be.
    I've been thinking about the patience
    Of ordinary things, how clothes
    Wait respectfully in closets
    And soap dries quietly in the dish,
    And towels drink the wet
    From the skin of the back.
    And the lovely repetition of stairs.
    And what is more generous than a window?

"The Patience of Ordinary Things" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Prayer for the Care of Animals

Dear God, precious creator of all beings loved, lovely, and loving, we ask your tender care, support, protection, and healing for all the animals who are our companions and helpers; our protectors and angels; our friends and family. Please bless all those who care for these blessed ones and help us all, together and individually, to express the compassion, tenderness, dignity, and oneness of all creation. Thank you for shaping thought and opening hearts and eyes to the need for care for all animals. May we all continue to awaken into a sacred reverence for life and relationship in all its beautiful, varied, and amazing forms. In thanks and wonder, seeking peace for all, we pray. Amen.

News stories inspiring this prayer:

  • From CNN [10-21-08]: “A $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs. Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration are trained at the base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 dogs are working with military units.”

  • From the Christian Science Monitor [10-17-08]: “America's horse-racing industry is trying to clean up its image with a new high-profile overseer and promises of voluntary certification for tracks that meet tough standards…Reform of the tradition-bound $40 billion industry will be a daunting task. The sport is trying to change behaviors of owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, and track operators across 38 different state racing jurisdictions.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elliott's Elegy

Purring lapmate,
paws spreading, pushing,
curling claws against my chin
(gently, lightly drawing caution,
like goosebumps,
to the surface)
curling like a baby
snuggled on your back.
What or who will take your place?
The siamese yowl,
a surprising voice,
chattering in conversation.
Who will ever sound the same?
The paws beneath the door
when we were separated,
however briefly,
by the artifice of the material world;
they now remind me
how blessed I am and was,
how blessed were you,
and are you now,
to have shared time and space in love
with no boundaries of species,
doors, language, or claws,
to ever separate us.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Problems Aren't Curses

This morning, driving back from the emergency vet where I just signed a $1,000 estimate for Elliott's possble immediate care expenses, I asked God to help me see this overwhelming and scary situation in the right light. In the midst of a world pitching and swaying in financial crisis, I am working for a nonprofit organization and trying to weather in my own small business the belt tightening many of my clients have undergone. I don't know what else to do but pray, love, work with integrity, and do my best to honor my commitments. And my commitments are promises of love--promises to care tenderly for all life, promises to honor my word, promises to do my best to be honest with myself and engaged with my world, trusting God and others and myself to bring forth, sooner or later, the harmony that is the ground of all being.

As I prayed for calm and light, it occurred to me that problems, when they open up in our lives like huge potholes, do not mean we aren't blessed. It's a very human thing--the mark of a rational mind--to look for cause and effect, to wonder why something is happening, and to investigate the how so that we can perhaps make ourselves safer in the future and avoid it happening again. On one level this is practical and understandable. On another level, it can be self-negating and dangerous. If I interpret problems as signs that I have done something wrong, that I have fallen from God's favor, that I've had too many blessings and now have to take some bad stuff on the chin, what does that say about my thoughts of God? Is God love or not? Is God all-powerful, all-capable, all-present, or not? Does God send us challenges and problems and scary situations to test our mettle, to "teach us a lesson," or to otherwise stir up our lives so we have to turn to God more fully?

This is not the God I know--it may be a fearful mask lurking in my own subconscious that I sometimes attribute to "fate" or "chance" or "misfortune," but it is not God. It is not the face of a loving God that constricts Elliott's heart or causes him to labor for breath. It is not the face of a loving God that causes circumstances that threaten my family's financial security. It is not the face of a loving God that brings unhappy events, scary situations, or wounds that take years to heal.

Where they come from or why they come I do not know. But both from my time as a chaplain and from my own experience of tragedy in my own life, I do know this: God is present in the midst of any circumstance in our lives. God is accessible, reachable, now. When Jesus and the disciples encountered the blind man and they asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus took the question out of the realm of cause and effect, moving it completely away from the why and the how, and put it fully in the square of the what: Now the glory of God can be known.

So Elliott's heart began to fail this morning--my sweet, tender, loving Elliott who still curls up purring beside me in the chair at night (he's the kitty in my profile photo)--and God is with us both. Good people at two vets helped; timing worked so we could get him in; I noticed early signs; and now he's stable and resting quietly, getting great care and under observation all day. There's a lot of Providence at work in that situation. I trust God to handle the finances too. In this moment, I don't know how it will all work out, but I do know there's a harmony at work here somewhere. God's glory will show up.

In chaplaincy training, I learned that "crisis" means literally, "danger" plus "opportunity." Our problems--financial, health, relationship, work, emotional--can be scary and panic-inducing, taking us to the edge of our resources and leaving us wondering how to cope. But rather than interpreting problems as signs that we've done something wrong or have fallen from God's favor, we can hold the space for faith and watch carefully for God to show up. God will, because that's God's nature--to never leave us comfortless.

Peace to you, to Elliott, and to me, and may we individually and collectively feel the presence of God today in very real and transforming ways.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

You Are Dear to Me

Looking for a simple, compassionate exercise you can do right at your desk this afternoon? Try this:

Each time you begin an e-mail to someone today, when you type "Dear Rob" (sub your own person's name there), stop a minute and think of that person's face and then say in your heart, "dear Rob..." as God might say it.

We are each and all precious to God and at the center of God's affections, right this very moment. Expressing the dearness of the person you're writing to, whether you're ordering light bulbs, editing an article, or writing to complain about something, puts you in tune with God and part of the shine of love radiating from a benevolent universe.

Try it and see how it instantly softens the energy in your office, dear reader. :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Morning Prayer

O God, our God, my God

With a grateful heart, I dedicate this day to You.
May all moments be ours together to create and bless,
may love radiate naturally from all events and circumstances,
may your peace be at the simple center of all that occurs.

May all my thoughts arise gently from a knowing of true and eternal love and safety in You.

And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life this day contribute to the happiness and freedom of all.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Awareness: An Owner's Manual

I just created a new book called Awareness: An Owner's Manual that offers ideas and meditations on our personal awareness--one of the greatest gifts we have for increasing peace, harmony, and compassion in our lives and our world. Along with the flow of the text, I've included the voices of some of my favorite teachers (Rumi, Thomas Merton, Fred Rogers, Thich Nhat Hahn, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Douglas Steere, and more). It's available in print format or electronic download. Click here for a preview, and if you take a look, post a comment and let me know what you think! :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Light, Shadow, and Reflection

The light bulb by the back door burned out yesterday, and when I took the dogs outside early this morning, while it was still dark, only the light on the back of the house illumined the backyard stretching to the woods. I stood with them in lighted area, looking up beyond the spotlight to Orion's Belt, listening to crickets. Gorgeous.

As we walked back to the house, we left the illumined area and stepped into the dark. I was very aware of that moment, leaving the light and entered the dark area. But then something unexpected happened; my eyes instantly adjusted and I saw a different light--the moon--lighting our way from behind. I saw clearly our shadows as we walked to the back door. I was amazed to find that it wasn't dark at all.

Now I'm sitting at my desk at work, and all is quiet (most people aren't in yet). I noticed as I turned into our parking lot that the sun was just beginning to come up. The windows of my office face east, but my desk faces west, and I thought how nice it would be to be able to really see the beautiful pink-and-orange sunrise. But right here, across the room from me, I see the sunrise reflected on the wall. Orange light frames the shape of the trees just outside my window. It's almost the same experience as seeing my own shadow by moonglow. Beautiful.

How wonderfully kind and loving is it of our God to always provide the light we need in every circumstance. Even when things seem dark; even when we think we might be missing out; even when we don't know where the light might come from or think we've lost it entirely, God's Light is shining on and for and in us, illumining the way, give us continual beauty, peace, and joy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prayer for Financial Stability

“Cast all your care upon Him; for He cares for you…” —1 Peter 5:7

The waves are rolling today, Lord, threatening to overturn our small boat. Storms are making landfall; financial markets are pitching and swaying. Those we have turned to for security and balance look like they are going under the waves. What can we do? To whom will we turn? You alone hold all creation, all thought, all truth in your hands. You are governing your entire creation perfectly, flawlessly, continually, in this very moment. Help us to see the balance and stability. Help us to hold to our knowledge of you as All Good, caring for us tenderly, as a mother cares for a child. Give us the strength of mind, the presence of soul, the calm of spirit, to turn to you in all things. And when we are too weak to turn on our own or too scared to open our eyes, help us to feel you here, God, with your arm around our shoulders and your Love lighting the path ahead.

Just for today, let’s take a deep breath, even as the world pitches and sways around us. With each inward breath, we can affirm that God is Good. With each exhale, we can release our fear for the future, unhelpful images of lack, and worries about security and health. As we exhale, we can set those ideas free to be dissolved in God’s goodness and care. God truly gives us what we need. As we breathe in the goodness of God, new light and reassurance will come to us. We know it’s true because God loves us with a perfect Love. Try it and see.

PS. Here’s an article I found helpful on this topic: Finding solid ground in a stormy economy [by Ned Odegaard, on]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Simple Prayer

I read somewhere that our bodies are made new every seven years--our cells, muscles, and tissues have all regenerated themselves and been replaced in the preceding seven years. This means that physically we have all progressed, grown, and been made new since this heartbreaking and tragic day seven years ago. Old things have passed away, and new life has come to pass. Brokenness has begun to reveal new growth. Desolation and destruction have been seed--what have they produced in our lives, in our world?

I'm not sure how we can ever really heal from September 11, 2001, in the way we can never truly heal--as in return to the way things were before--the loss of a loved one, the shift of a life, the death of a dream. Today, sitting here at my desk, I feel such deep sadness for the families whose lives were changed forever on this day seven years ago. I still mourn for our country--for the loss of the perception of safety and the acts of anger and aggression that were borne of our pain. We move forward, limping and leaning on each other, unsure of what lies ahead and unable to make sense of what lies behind.

I do not know in any human way how we can heal from the pain caused by acts of desperation, but I do trust that God sees, loves, and holds all our thoughts, acts, experiences--our whole world--in a sense of harmony, peace, and goodness. Sometimes my limited view and understanding, and my struggle with the pain, make it hard to see goodness where such anguish still exists, but I know God has a truer view, the only real Big Picture, and that in God's time and in God's perfect way, comfort comes, healing spreads, new growth arises.

It's been seven years. Scientists say we are new in body. May God give us fresh eyes to see, know, feel, and live fully from a sense of newness in soul.

Peace and comfort today, wherever you find yourself, knowing you are safe in God's care.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Growing in tune with the seasons

Today I'm in a preparing-for-fall mood, feeling the coolness of the air, noticing the slight changing of the colors of the trees. Internally, there's a sense of nesting, which I particularly love. Each year September is an important month for me, a time of new beginnings and a celebration of all the inner growth from the previous year. I was thinking about arriving in September again, along with this idea of living in tune with the seasons, and I noticed that, for me, each month has a kind of correlation to the inner spiritual growth and learning that's happening for me through the year. I guess I am in tune with the seasons, more than I knew! Here's a kind of playful calendar for inner work that connects to the seasons of nature (at least in the part of the world where I live):

    September: Decide where in your inner and outer life you want to learn and grow next.
    October: Harvest the learning and growth you’ve done over the summer.
    November: Share your bounty with others and say thanks.
    December: Celebrate hope, vision, love, healing, new light, growing consciousness.
    January: Start fresh in a relationship, a project, or your understanding of yourself and relation to God.
    February: Practice unconditional love toward all beings—whether they are hibernating or not. :)
    March: Love the winds of change and open to all possibilities. Life is bringing you good things.
    April: Let the seeds of hope, vision, growth, and consciousness be planted (and don’t be afraid to shed a few tears; they enrich the soil).
    May: Witness, participate in, and celebrate the euphoric, exploding abundance of your early growth!
    June: Tend your growing lovingly, feeding and watering (and appreciating) as needed.
    July: Intentionally weed out the thoughts, opinions, and actions that can hold back or delay your growing.
    August: Notice how far you’ve come! The season is almost complete. Continue to nourish your growth by caring for it with water, food, shade, and love. Begin thinking of ways to celebrate it at harvest.

How is your life in tune with the seasons? I'd love to hear, if you want to post a comment and share your thoughts.

Namaste, friends. :)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God's Happy Love

Catherine of Sienna said it all this morning in this quote from her Letters:

    If you live every day with respect for others, God's happy love will be your best friend.

Wonderful! Blessings on your day, :) k

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buddhist Proverbs

I got Pema Chodron's Getting Unstuck audiobook from the library yesterday and today after I dropped Cameron off at school I listened to the first part of the first CD. She has such a lovely voice, lyrical and gentle with humor and space. Her words and thoughts and teachings are grounded in such a moving sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance; I found myself wanting to listen just for that loving blessing of the sound of gracious openness, a type of beautiful music.

Visiting her site led me on to other Buddhist teachings, and I found her referenced on this site, along with a huge list of Buddhist proverbs written in the 12th century. The site displays how each of several teachers of Buddhist thought phrase the various proverbs. This captured my imagination and I decided that for my own learning I would create a PowerPoint presentation of the various proverbs, to cycle through on my laptop as a screensaver. What a great way to fit awareness and spiritual practice in with my work! :)

So, just in case you're interested in the same thing, here a link to the simple presentation. Be forewarned--it's long; I think there are close to 70 slides. But don't work too hard at taking it all in; just let it wash over you, like cool mist on a mountain walk. :)

Note: For some reason the file isn't running automatically as a PowerPoint show, so if the PowerPoint file opens on your computer, just press F5 to start the slide show.

So True

Well, I have to admit this quote of Thomas Merton's is a little deflating for people like me who try to put words--emotions, images, something--on the tiny transformative spark that occurs when faith, heart, and consciousness come together:
    No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.

    Thomas Merton. Honorable Reader. Robert E. Daggy, editor. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991: 91

Today I have the windows open in the sunroom (it was only 59 degrees this morning when I woke up! Wonderful!) and I'm sitting here listening to the wind in the forest as I write. The trees, the locusts, and the voices of children on the school playground a quarter of a mile away all mix together to make the most delightful music proclaiming the goodness of God, the wonder of life, and the real and inexhaustible hope that keeps us loving each other and envisioning a healed world. What else is there to say? We can only listen, receive, and offer our breathless thanks.

Note: To subscribe to the Merton Institute's Weekly Reflection (which is how I received this Merton quote today), go to and click Subscribe Now on the right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Listening & Guidance

It occurred to me this morning--after an exciting, jam-packed, creative week--that the most profound change and deepening in my spiritual life over the last 10 year has not come about because I did more, understood more, or prayed more. It wasn't the books I read (although those certainly helped), the situations I lived (although at each place I found God right there in the midst of it), or thousands upon thousands of prayers, actions, and thoughts that went streaming to the Loving Presence I know as God. Rather, the big inner shift, the opening, the deepening, the enriching happened when all the outer striving and trying and working and acting ceased, and I began to notice a need for listening more. Just a quiet, open, gentle space, where I listened quietly and in love for whatever God would or wouldn't say to my heart. The listening became the prayer, the act, the communion, the point. It is a refreshment like nothing else, a moment of gathering in beauty in the Garden. I highly recommend it, whether you use something like the Centering Prayer (here's a great site for that) or the Jesus Prayer or the simple and beautiful Quaker method of silent worship. Take even the smallest moment and just breathe with God. There's no refreshment like it, and from that still centered spot in the core of your being, everything else begins to blossom. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Gift of Perfect Peace

The other day Ruby (my 22-month-old granddaughter) was here spending the day with me (which is joy enough) and we had just finished running a bunch of errands. As we turned onto our street, Ruby nodded off to sleep, her arms and legs hanging limp in her car seat, her little head snuggled against the padded cushion. Earlier in the afternoon, we'd spent more than an hour "trying" to go to sleep at naptime (which for Ruby means repeatedly playing the music on her Fisher Price aquarium, singing to herself, and saying "Mama-Dada-Nana" like a mantra). As an active almost-two-year-old, she's fascinated with everything and has lots of good ideas and really doesn't want to give it all up and go to sleep. (I can identify--when I was little, I used to stretch out on my babysitter's bed and sing "These Boots Are Made for Walkin!" at the top of my lungs instead of taking a nap. I guess that dates me, doesn't it?!)

When Ruby slipped off to this peaceful sleep, I knew this was precious time--and a rest she really needed. Come to think of it, maybe I did, too. It was a beautiful day; I parked the car in the garage, rolled down all the windows, left the sunroof open, and enjoyed the breeze, the goldfinches I could see in my rear view mirror, and my sweet, sleeping grandbaby for an entire hour. What did I do? Simply enjoyed the time, loved her, thanked God.

It was the best rest I've had all week! Wonderful. May you find surprising gifts of respite in your day as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Singing Thanks

Yesterday I wrote this in a note to a dear friend, and the thought and feeling has stayed with me, so I thought I'd share it here: "In the moments when I feel most awake and present, I get a sense that all creation—-literally all creation—-is singing Thanks! to God. When I am really here without defense, projection, or pretense, I am singing it, too."

Really Sing It today! Countless angels are your backup singers. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Living Gratitude

Yesterday afternoon my sons and I spent two hours in the waiting room of a MedCheck while my oldest son found out about chest pains that had begun earlier in the afternoon. Ordinarily this wouldn't be the best place for contemplation--the waiting room was full, my older son was grim and concerned; my younger son was anxious about a school project due today. The fear that usually accompanies an event like this for me wasn't present--I knew from Christopher's voice and color and breathing that all was reasonably well (although I did feel it was important to have his symptoms checked out because my dad had heart problems). After two EKGs and lots of listening, the doctor told Christopher he had strained a muscle in his chest, just above his heart. Nothing a few Ibuprophen and a couple of days' rest can't fix.

While we waited, I read an old book by the Dalai Lama that I found at the library last weekend: Kindness, Clarity, and Insight. The book is a compilation of lectures he gave the U.S. 20 years ago, and they are wonderful, simple, and clear.

In the midst of this experience, the Dalai Lama's voice and thoughts washed soothingly over me. He wrote about compassion, compassion for all beings. This type of compassion is not simple empathy but a kind of love and gratitude that begins within a heightened awareness of our own blessing. He suggests we remember a great kindness someone in our life has done for us--perhaps a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend. Then we allow our gratitude for that great kindness to shine brightly within us. Soon we respond to others with that same sense of gratitude, a thank-full approach for the blessing they are bringing into our lives. And from this ever-growing underground stream of gratitude, true compassion pours out naturally--beginning with my thankfulness for you, I want happiness for you and as well as health, freedom, creativity, joy, and love. When I act from compassion, it is because the idea of us as two separate beings has dissolved and I recognize that as you love, I love; as you hurt, I hurt; as you seek peace, I seek peace.

May we flourish in the true compassion that arises from the grateful Heart of all being.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pray without ceasing...for all beings

The Abbey of Gethsemani is continuing its gentle shaping influence on my heart and life. Since my visit there in late May (I attended a wonderful writing retreat at Bethany Spring), I have been immersing myself in Thomas Merton's faith and thought. Because he has such a strong, clear voice in his writing (and so honest!), I wanted to hear the sound of his voice as it really was. The director of Bethany Spring pointed me to a link on their site, and then I wanted more, so I searched YouTube and found a few "videos" (really audio with photos) someone has uploaded. The first link I clicked on was Merton teaching new postulant monks about the Jesus Prayer. I'd never heard of this prayer before and it seemed too simple to be very effective, at first, but then, listening to Merton's teachings, I realized the transcendent power--the Holy Spirit is praying with you when you pray this prayer.

I realize this is a big concept and probably something that should be covered in a book as opposed to a blog post, but I have been praying with the Jesus Prayer for a while and it is truly a transforming and loving and powerful prayer. I've also just begun reading The Way of a Pilgrim, the personal spiritual journey of a 15th century Russian peasant who desperately wanted to pray without ceasing and discovered the even-then ancient tradition of the Jesus Prayer was the method that ministered to the yearning of his soul.

So what is the Jesus prayer? Simply, and heart-fully, this:

    Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me...

Because I am learning and beginning to live with a greater awareness of Oneness, I often pray have mercy on us... or have mercy on all, or simply, have mercy. I'll write about my discoveries on the topic of "mercy" in a later post...

Yesterday it occurred to me to combine the Jesus Prayer with tonglen as I was in conversation with someone who was hurting. If you're unfamiliar with tonglen, go here. Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun, wrote about the practice of tonglen in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. The use of breath as prayer is part of both the Jesus Prayer and tonglen--it was a very tender and beautiful moment. And the person I was with seemed to feel a shift in the depth of struggle. A lightening occurred, and the rest of the evening seemed to be more peaceful (even with a little joy thrown in).

Note: I was hoping to share the links to the Merton teachings on the Jesus Prayer with you, but when I checked the links, the creator of the clips has taken them down. If I locate them again I'll post them here at a later time.

Be well, and may you feel, receive, and share all your blessings today! :) k

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dissolving Inhumanity

Today on the way to work, as I was merging from 69 South onto 465 West, a trucker refused to let me in. Then the car in front of him wouldn't let me in. I was surprised--this has never happened to me on the way to work before, even though I always drive in rush-hour traffic. I was dumbfounded as these drivers seemed to set their faces against me and pretend not to notice my flashing turn signal. The truck was downright aggressive about it. Finally, I was able to zip into a tiny space that opened up. I was puzzled and a bit stirred up by the experience.

I started thinking about the moments of grace that are available to us as we drive. I like to leave a relaxed amount of space between my car and the car in front of me, so other drivers feel like they can move into that space if they need to. I like the way that makes me feel as I drive--like I have more room, more time, the grace to be flexible. Other drivers ride the bumpers of the car in front of them, pushing, leaning forward, always late. I've felt that way before and I don't like it. I choose not to create that in my day, or impact others' driving experience with that kind of energy.

I got to work and glanced at the clock on my phone as my computer came to life. 8:15. I think that's the moment the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, killing 80,000 instantly, on this date in 1945. I was silent and sad for a moment, praying. Is it possible that the imprint of inhumanity--absence of grace--is left on this day? I prayed to dissolve any internal belief I carried about the "hardness" or "insensitivity" of the inflexible drivers this morning. I may not be able to do much to affect the horror and injustice people suffered on this day (and in the months and years following), but I can dedicate myself, my efforts, my thoughts, and my prayers today to dissolving the inhumanity in myself, silencing the echos of judgment and separation that are tempted to arise through me this day.

May all beings feel the stirring of Spirit and Grace today, without exception.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Relax, Martha, Relax

This week has been a whirlwind--a happy whirlwind, but a whirlwind. At home, family is visiting and we are celebrating. At work, the foundation board and the executive council are both here having multiday meetings. I am part of a three-person team at our wonderful nonprofit working to launch an exciting new initiative (which for me involves the development of new publications, a web site, and CD contents). In the midst of it all I'm trying to keep my toes dipping in the underground stream of prayer. So far, so good.

Last night after dinner and birthday cake, we all sat in the living room and talked about things near and far, past and present. We offered up things we loved and reflected on oddities and interesting awarenesses. At one point I walked into the kitchen with a stack of cake dishes and started to run the water so I could rinse them and put them in the dishwasher. But then I changed my mind, put them all in a pile in the sink, and went back into the living room to relax on the floor with my family and be part of the conversation.

It was a subtle shift and one I barely noticed. With that tiny flicker of thought, I transformed from Martha to Mary. I made that huge migration from the world of tasks, completion, and achievement to the world of connection, participation, and love. There's a lot more grace in Mary's world; more openness, room for laughter, space to breathe.

And you know what? The dishes got done. And more besides. Without effort, and floating on the good feelings of having been part of love's arising.

See? There's hope for Martha's of the world, after all. Enjoy your day!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Life comes calling

Yesterday and today I was goaded out of bed by a young male cardinal, who excitedly lights in the river birch tree outside my second story window and then flies against the window (gently, with wings fluttering awkwardly) and back to the tree branch, over and over again, 8 to 10 times. He looks into the room, turning his head from side to side, his black questioning eye probing the quiet coolness. After several repeats of his fly-against-the-window technique, he grabs the wire mesh of the window screen with his tiny claws and hangs there, suspended on the window. His call is congenial--his voice has a quieter, more collegial tone. He seems to be speaking directly to me--or to some object or other bird he's looking for--calling this being out to do something, notice, live. His action are very intentional and directed, but I don't know what expression is fueling them. Or maybe I do, but I don't--quite--believe I do.

I do know this. It's an awesome and wonderful gift, something that feels like a sacred honor, to be invited into the day by a cardinal who has seemingly discovered something worth noticing in me. Of course, I'm not sure he's really looking for me specifically. And I don't understand his language. And although I sense excitement and intentionality, these could be my own descriptors of emotion and motivation that don't have anything to do with what's going on inside him.

But he shows up, he makes the effort, he is saying something and doing something and it appears to have some connection to me, somehow. I realize how much this gift of the cardinal's presence is to me a snapshot of the gift of the presence of God. I feel God there, noticing and caring, drawing me beyond myself; but sometimes I don't understand the language, I'm fuzzy about the expectation, and I'm not really sure God meant me at all but is just loving and speaking and acting with indescriminate Love.

But, still, not knowing the meaning of the experience doesn't keep me from raising my hand from beneath the soft layers of warm, weighty covers, waving at the cardinal hanging on the screen, saying, "Good morning! Here I am! I see you!" and wondering what goodness this miraculous promise portends for this day.

May your Love awaken in you today a breathless sense of transcending mystery and the reassuring comfort that your deeper Life will come looking for you if you tarry under the covers too long.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Prayer is Freedom

Talk about a powerful phrase. What more do we need than that? I read this last night in Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals, and Letter. Prayer is freedom. Because when we turn our hearts and awareness to God, we instantly transcend anything that seems to bind or separate us. Here's how Merton puts it:

    "...prayer is our real freedom. It is the liberation from the alienation that I have been talking about.

    It is in prayer that we are truly and fully ourselves and we are not under any other power, authority, or domination. We have to see what that means. 'He has put all things under His feed and made Him ruler of everything, the head of the Church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills the whole creation.' You have to spend your whole life going over and over again through a passage like this. It is the only way you can ever get anywhere with it. You don't just read it a few times and then read it with a commentary. You keep coming back to it, and maybe after fifty years of chewing on it you begin to see what it really means." (p. 113-114)

Of course, Merton is talking about cognitive understanding here, but the good news is that it's something we can leave behind as we practice the presence of God. Prayer is freedom from all illusion that tempts us to believe that there is such a thing as "not God."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Faithfully Present

I learned something new about myself yesterday. My ability (and desire) to focus quietly and simply on what's before me is increasing--so much so, in fact, that it really causes pain and stress when I feel scattered and pulled in different directions. Yesterday afternoon I noticed my increasing anxiety level when little Miss Ruby decided not to nap. How would I finish editing the manuscript I was working on? When would I be able to evaluate the new submission? I had so much I'd planned to cram in during naptime!

But napping just wasn't part of Ruby's plan yesterday, so ultimately we both just went with the flow. And I discovered something precious and important. When Ruby is here, I just want to be faithfully present with her, in love, in joy, in exploration and gratitude. When I edit, I want to be immersed in the words and the meaning, listening for the author's voice, bringing all my abilities--faithfully--to bear in the moment of work. When I fix dinner for my family, I want my whole self to be there, chopping, mixing, sauteing, loving, creating.

It's painful to be divided, to be planning the next while you're living the now. How can we live fully if our minds are already planning tomorrow's to-do list? Today I choose to celebrate this day the Lord has made by being faithfully present to the gift immediately before me, whether that's love, work, play, or service.

May you discover a hundred little smiles of God in your path today...just for you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quiet Mind

For this moment, breathe deeply,
relax your shoulders
let your knee rest above its ankle--
no fretful bobbing up and down
the breeze kissed your temple just now
did you feel it?
your leaning into consciousness
your striving, sweating, lifting, molding
--the honorable effort of working out your own salvation--
lifts away like a firefly as you relax and open your hand.
Now, feel the Breath
hear the Heartbeat
let yourself be perfectly,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Late-Night "Oh"

A few minutes ago I was out driving, sun roof open, crickets chirping, under a full moon. I picked Cameron up from a friend's house and we drove home through the open countryside. I said something to him, relating a story from earlier tonight. I tried to re-explain and then gave up. "Why did I even want to tell that story?" I wondered. A little jolt of self-recrimination arose. Then a quick thought, "I am noticing these unloving--or at least suspect--behaviors in myself. Merton would call that the ongoing work of grace."

Suddenly I felt this big sense of "Oh"-ness spreading inside. I relaxed. It was like a warm current in a lazy lake. The fact that I can see these irritations and obstructions in myself is a great improvement over not seeing them. Grace is doing its work in me. Consciousness changes everything, and if these unloving thoughts are arising enough to be seen, they will soon evaporate in the Light of Love.

That's worth at least a small-h hallelujah. Goodnight!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Contact with Transcendence

I love the way Thomas Merton, Jesus, Rumi, Sri Ramana, and Lao Tzu (and many, many more--including you and me) all wrote, spoke, and moved from a sense of expressing (and pointing to and loving) transcendence. This morning it occurred to me, reading Sri Ramana's Reality in Forty Verses that all contact points to transcendence, like a kiss. My fingers touch this keyboard, and at the point of contact my being says "Thank you!" for the ability to connect, express, emote, offer, receive. The keyboard becomes a symbol of transcendence, enabling this arising sense in me to move beyond a perceived limit of me, Katherine, and go free into a medium where you receive it and draw it into your own consciousness, to stir whatever it may stir there. The music in the background--transcendent beauty becoming audible, articulated for the senses and pointing to God. The light on my desk--my vision makes contact with it--an expression of all Light, the Light of the world, the transcendent Truth of all being.

So many gifts, and so many thanks! This must be what "life abundant" is all about. Be blessed today! All will be (and is) well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

From Blessings to Blessed

2006 was an 84-hummingbird year. 2007 brought 119 hummingbirds. I was enamored, awed, captivated, inspired by them. They were little miracles, and they said something to me about my own soul--sometimes visible, a miracle, sometimes not. As I wrote those two summers in my sunroom, with the windows open on three sides and the cool green of the river birch tree illumining the eastern wall, I stopped and added a note with a number in my journal each time a flashing green, ruby-throated hummingbird hovered by the petunias, the bee balm, the wildflowers just outside my window.

This morning, early, I was out, and saw the empty hummingbird feeder and the spot where the bee balm grew in years past, and realized I've seen only three hummingbirds this year. The pattern of my day is much different now--I work in an office miles from my home for most of the week. Life has drawn me out of the sunroom, with its sacral, precious peace.

But something else has changed, too. Today I can feel the same wonder looking at a mosquito that I felt last year being blessed by the visit of a hummingbird. I can feel the pulse of gentle harmony in traffic. I can marvel at God in and between and through the letters, where I once thought I had to wait for something to arise in the space.

Moving beyond a tallying of blessings, maybe we discover that everything, everything is a gift and that counting is impossible because to count is to divide. We can bask in the whole knowing of our blessedness today. A tender sigh of Thanks with every exhale would not be too much.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Spiritual Intervention #2

Good morning! As I was preparing for work on this lush rainy Thursday, I read through the entry for today in A Little Daily Wisdom: Christian Women Mystics and was blessed by Hildegard of Bingen:
    When anger tries to burn up the temple of my body, I'll look to the goodness of God, whom anger never touched. I'll look to God whom anger never touched, and I'll become sweeter than the breeze whose gentleness moistens the earth. I'll look to God whom anger never touched, and I'll have spiritual joy because virtues will begin to show themselves in me. I'll look to God whom anger never touched, and--because I look to Him--I'll experience God's calm goodness.

Amen and amen.

Whether your particular tendency under stress is to go into anger (as it sounds was the case with Hildegard) or anxiety (my own personal challenge), this meditation can help you interrupt the flow of thoughts and bring peace. I just substituted the word "anxiety" for "anger" and felt so peaceful I think I'll float to work this morning.

May you experience a hundred joyful things today. It's all God!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh, the Grand Inelegance of It All...

This poem arrived this morning in Writer's Almanac and it fit so perfectly with things I've been thinking about lately that I had to post it. (Plus it made me laugh.) I am so thankful that God delightedly accepts whatever inelegant, pieced-together, lopsided creations we offer him throughout the day and sees only pure love, radiance, hope, and the faithful heart of the innocense in which they're offered:

Naming the Animals
by Anthony Hecht

Having commanded Adam to bestow
Names upon all the creatures, God withdrew
To empyrean palaces of blue
That warm and windless morning long ago,
And seemed to take no notice of the vexed
Look on the young man's face as he took thought
Of all the miracles the Lord had wrought
Now to be labeled, dubbed, yclept, indexed.

Before an addled mind and puddle brow,
The feathered nation and the finny prey
Passed by; there went biped and quadruped.
Adam looked forth with bottomless dismay
Into the tragic eyes of his first cow,
And shyly ventured, "Thou shalt be called 'Fred.'"

"Naming the Animals" by Anthony Hecht, from Collected Later Poems. © Alfred A Knopf, 2003.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy, Shining People

Here is one of the many reasons why I love Thomas Merton:
    In Louisville, on a corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of a shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers...I have the immense joy of being human, a member of a race in which God himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around Shining like the Sun!

[The bold is his emphasis, not mine.]

And today is Anne Frank's birthday, so here is a connecting quote from her journal. The Writer's Almanac says that Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is the second best-selling nonfiction book in history. Only the Bible is ahead of her book in sales. Wow!
    Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love!

Be blessed today, aware that you carry the good news of love incarnate, shining out through your every thought and act!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

For Those Waiting Times...

From today's Writer's Almanac. Perfect.
    Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

    by Dan Albergotti

    Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
    Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
    with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
    Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
    Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
    for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
    each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments
    of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
    Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
    of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
    Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
    where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
    the things you did and could have done. Remember
    treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
    pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

"Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale" by Dan Albergotti from The Boatloads.© BOA Editions, Ltd., 2008.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Give Mom a Peaceful Day

I found this beautiful site yesterday, just looking for a nice new home page for my browser window. What a great way to start the day! Share it with your mom today if you want to give her a peaceful start to her morning: Peaceful Day.

Happy Mother's Day to our Father-Mother God and to all who shower others with God's qualities of unfailing love, nurturing, tender faithfulness, unflagging support, honesty, and kindness.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What Beautiful Webs We Weave

This morning early I took the dogs out, schlogging through the marshy backyard (it's been raining for two days) and stepping into a sunny spot. The sky was already a deep blue even though the sun was barely up...the trees and grass glowed a brilliant green. Something glinting in the sun at my feet caught my eye--it was a beautiful, perfect, spider web, stretched over the grass, catching the sunlight on its dewey threads. It was breathtaking! The whole web was only 6 inches in diameter, with rings within rings within rights. I stepped carefully and guided the dogs so we wouldn't disturb the spider's miraculous handiwork. Three feet away, I discovered another beautiful sunlit web, the same size, set carefully on the grass to catch the sun.

As I piloted the dogs back toward the house, I suddenly had an image of God taking care not to step on our webs, either--the webs we create that are our worlds for learning. This web has a conflicted relationship; that one, a difficult task; another a health challenge; another one, pure joy. Whatever webs we create in our day, we can know that God gave us the talent to create them and they have an inherent beauty all their own, simply because they are ours, because they have life, and because of the loving and careful One who is noticing and protecting them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Recap of the Festival of Faith & Writing

I'm back from the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College and wanted to share links for some of the great people I found there. I was really blessed and moved in several of the sessions. Not only did I come away with good and practical new writing ideas, but I was inspired by the heart, spirit, and mind of many creative and gifted writers. I recommend the following people to you, for their presence as much as for their writing and illustration talents:
I also met several great editors at a variety of publishing companies--they were approachable, friendly, helpful, smart. Thanks to Lil at Paraclete, Sheryl at Jossey-Bass, Kathleen at Fresh Air (a new imprint launching from Upper Room), and Vinita at Loyola--for their ideas, wisdom, and friendly openness.

If you didn't go this year, start planning your 2010 trip now. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Festival of Faith & Writing

This week I'll be attending the Festival of Faith & Writing, held every other year at Calvin College in Michigan. I'm really looking forward to it! I submitted the book proposal for the Conversations book, so we'll see what happens.

If you're going, keep an eye out for me. I'll be the tall brunette with the kitten on my shoulder. :)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

This is too beautiful not to post

From the Writer's Almanac, this morning:

by Anne Porter

Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was called Susanna

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping

All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes

She said it's something that
My mother told me

There's not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

Poem: "Susanna" by Anne Porter, an excerpt from Living Things, published by Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press of Hanover, New Hampshire. © 2006 Anne Porter. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sacred Life

The following is a reflection from Martin Buber, in I and Thou. I just love it, so I posted it here. :) Enjoy.

    I contemplate a tree.

    I can accept it as a picture: a rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the gentleness of blue silver ground.

    I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the infinite commere with earth and air--and the growing itself in its darkness.

    I can assign it to a species and observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of life.

    I can overcome its uniqueness and form so rigorously that I recognize it only as an expression of the law--those laws according to which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or those laws according to which the elements mix and separate.

    I can dissolve it into a number, into a pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it.

    Throughout all of this the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition.

    But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, that a sI contemplate the tree I am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me.

    This does not require me to forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused.

    Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars--all this in its entirety.

    The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it--only differently.

    One should not try to dilute the meaning of the relation: relation is reciprocity.

    Does the tree then have consciousness, similar to our own? I have no experience of that. But thinking that you have brought this off in your own case, must you again divide the indivisible? What I encounter is neither the soul of a tree nor a dryad, but the tree itself."

Martin Buber, I and Thou (NY: Touchstone Books) p. 57-59.