Posts

STUMBLING ONTO JOY

If you’ve lived long enough, or perhaps if you’ve just REALLY lived, you’ve been the giver of unconditional love a time or two.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to be a parent, it goes with the territory.  You  give without ever asking or even thinking about asking for anything in return.  The ones you truly love make mistakes (sometimes a lot of them) and you forgive them.

You love them as they are, at their very best and at their most challenging.  And if it is the perfect kind of unconditional love, it means letting the other be most perfectly themselves.  It is like water for the soul, helping it to blossom into what it is called to be.

 When we love like this, we are not hoping that they fit an image,  perhaps really just a mirror image of ourselves.  Actually, when you come right down to the heart of the matter, the self has nothing to do with unconditional love.  The self that cares so much about checks and balances, that wants to know “what have you done for me lately” always get stuck in this building we call the body.

When there is no clutching towards the self, no seeking to find something particular to and for us; we love joyfully and without hesitation. 

If you experience this kind of giving, you have been given a glimpse of heaven. In the Christian Bible, Jesus shares the Parable of the Hidden Treasure to explain how priceless this experience of real love is (Matthew 13:44), “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy sold all he had and bought that field.”  This is not to say that accepting another fully is without pain or is easy, but rather it is priceless. It is a wellspring.

It seems most often in my life (and perhaps in yours), that I have stumbled upon these moments, have been gifted with the people I have loved unconditionally, and so it makes the joy even more precious as I did nothing to make them come about.  They have come into my life, not as a payment earned, but as proof of grace.

The Sufi poet, Hafiz writes,   

 “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me’. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.”   

When you love freely, there is no end to how the spirit soars, no limit to how Love can expand.  

I was given this gift by father and it wasn’t his to keep, but to enjoy.  I give this gift to my children and it isn’t mine to keep, but to enjoy.   I know it is now theirs to take and enjoy.

Please follow and like us:

WAITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Waiting as a spiritual practice is found in almost every religious tradition I can think of. 

For Muslims, the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, marks a month of fasting, giving alms, abstinence from all things of the flesh,and active prayer. This is in an attempt to cleanse the soul, but also it is thought that using these methods of emptying out the cares and desires of the physical world, one is preparing and waiting for the revelations of God to be experienced.  This is what happened to Muhammad.  In fact, the holiest night of the Muslim year is Laylat al-Qadr, it falls just before the close of Ramadan, and commemorates the night when the Qu’ran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. 

In Jewish tradition, waiting and the practice of patience in the face of daunting circumstances, has been a recurring theme since the Book of Exodus and those ensuing dark days in the desert.  The Jewish people wait for the angel of death to pass over their households during Passover and recreate the stories of bitter times and the promise of sweeter days in the Seder.  Again, fasting, prayer, and self-denial carve pathways to this opening up of the soul.

The Christians now find themselves in the heart of Lent.  Christians too share these same tools of purification.  Yet they wait for something unique to the other monotheistic religions.  They wait for the day of Resurrection, the Day that Jesus rose from the dead.

And, yet, even if one does not believe in the actual physical revival of the Christ from the dead, the stories that rise up from the New Testament can resonate with each of us, teaching us the power of waiting in faith.

These are stories that speak of yearning and suffering.  Yearning for a better life, a purpose, a meaning, and the reality of pain.  The stories of Jesus of Nazareth are stories of hope and fear, loyalty and betrayal, acceptance and denial, life and death.  Jesus tasted both the success of his mountain ministry (see Matthew’s feeding of the 5000) and yet was still determined to go to Jerusalem, with death threats and a certain persecution.

His followers were waiting for a triumphant crowning of a king as the culmination of a glorious ministry.  Instead, they were confused and angry by a leader ridiculed and crucified.  Jesus tried to point out that this path he was on, was not one easily understood by the ways of the world, that his lessons were those of the spirit and not of earthly successes and kingdoms.  Certainly choosing to undergo great suffering is not a natural inclination. 

Our own stories of waiting for a better day, whether for a job that has not yet materialized, a healing from an illness (our own or a loved ones, or even a death), can find much solidarity with the Bible stories of Lent.  They are filled with expectation on one day, as Jesus heals a leper and brings the dead to life, and then disillusionment, despair, and death on the next.

 One of the definitions of resurrection that I can hold up to a broader, secular audience is the Greek notion of resurrection as the “state of one who has returned to life.”

We all have seen the grief-stricken and the broken find a way back to a full and happy life after the most unmitigable tragedies, this is the promise of resurrection that casts it net wide and yet does not strain the boundaries of the intellect.  It is the faith of waiting. 

Quote for the day: “Even if one glimpses God, there are still cuts and splinters and burns along the way.”

Please follow and like us:

OIL ILLS HAVE NOT BEEN FOR THE PELICAN BRIEF

This past week I was listening to a woman being interviewed on NPR.  She has been volunteering for some weeks now cleaning the thick oil off the pelicans in Louisiana.   Her voice faltered several times as she described the heartache of watching several of them die or struggle with wings to laden to lift.  I hear the weary gratitude when her scrubbing efforts with simple dish soap and water restore a number of these birds towards health.

The photos of oil slicked birds display in Technicolor detail what havoc we humans can wreak on the rest of the animal kingdom in our insatiable need for more. Even if you are the unusual “bird” who doesn’t get too emotional about animals or feel a kinship with nature, amongst the gazillion other lessons we can glean from this disaster, one is the absolute necessity to put our environment before the profits and desires of big business.

We are discovering the hard way that this paradigm of short term gain is actually putting the “people on Main Street” out of their small businesses and livelihoods that have been a family’s source of pride for generations.  We all have become accustomed to being an active consumer in a consumer society (myself included).  So, to a degree, we are all complicit in the continuing crisis.       

One of the sources of healing, that can change our thinking and shift the collective perspective is the wisdom of Celtic spirituality.  Theirs is a language that can guide us to a new or remembered perspective about the creatures (on land and sea) and the landscape we inhabit. As John O’Donohue relates in his book Anam Cara- A Book of Celtic Wisdom, we are the newcomers here: 

“The animals are more ancient than us.  They were here for millenia before humans surfaced on the earth…Animals live outside in the wind, in the waters, in the mountains, and in the clay… (They) know nothing of Freud, Jesus, Buddha, Wall Street, the Pentagon, or the Vatican.  They live the politics of human intention…The Celtic mind recognized the ancient belonging and knowing of the animal world.  The dignity, beauty, and wisdom of the animal world by any false hierarchy or human arrogance.”

Instead, Celtic spirituality was a reservoir of stories that told of the union between animals and humans.  These tales fastened us to the wild landscape, grounding ourselves as a part of the circle of life, not as apart.  

My friend Kim has a saying she often uses for when her deepest intuition guides her to make a difficult decision or leads her to a clear perspective.  She says, “I know it in my knowings.”  That’s what Celtic spirituality calls us to.  Not to heed the heated and divisive mob mentality, but to listen in stillness to a saner, less selfish approach. 

Instead of “drill baby drill”, what we have gotten is “spill baby spill”.  This too shall pass (with a heavy toll for years to come), but LET’S LEARN THE LESSON IT IS TRYING TO TEACH US.

Please follow and like us: