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!