Monday, September 27, 2010

Lectio for September 27

Reading the following you might consider what 'to find our own way' is, what 'journeying in stages' is about,and perhaps how being 'sustained in the wilderness' happens in your life.

Start Where You Are
, Pema Chodron
The truth of the matter is that even though there are teaching and practice techniques, still we each have to find our own way. What does it really mean to open? What does it mean not to resist? what does it mean? It's a lifetime journey to find the answers to these questions for yourself. But there's a lot of support in these teachings and this practice.

Genesis 12
1Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak* of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring* I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb.

From our Eucharistic Prayer
Through Abraham and Sarah you called us into covenant with you.
You delivered us from slavery, sustained us in the wilderness,
and raised up prophets to renew your promise of salvation.
Then, in the fullness of time, you sent your eternal Word,
made mortal flesh in Jesus.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Uncomfortable Openess

Photo by Zen Sutherland

This flower with the bumblebee is Closed Gentian. It's rare in our neck of the woods. It's called 'closed' because it can't open by itself. The only pollinator strong enough to pry its petals apart is the bumblebee. Without the bumblebee, Closed Gentian would never bear seeds and would soon be gone from the earth.

I've watched bumblebees pollinate this lovely blue flower. It looks more like wrestling than caressing. Pollinated gentian of this species look bedraggled after a bee's embrace. The term dishabille comes to mind. Also Rumi's advice about rowdy visitors in The Guesthouse:

"Welcome and entertain them all, even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture. Still treat each guest honorably--he may be clearing you out for some new delight!"

This is the counter-intuitive logic of mindfulness practice. In the unwelcome and the uncomfortable and the frightening we find some our most helpful allies. When we really want to become fully alive, we learn to try to take help wherever we meet it. There are places in our hearts that will never open without help.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Muddy Water

We had a few small, potent thunderstorms in the area yesterday. We really need the rain and it was a blessing to get it, but storms like these also bring muddy runoff, which is not such a blessing.

It's interesting to live in a place with both a lot of recent building and a lot of national forest and park lands. After the heaviest rains, the rivers coming out of the Smoky Mountain National Park run clear, and watching the mud of 'civilization' flow into them is painful. And enlightening.

Our mindstreams are often muddy from scars and gauges new and old. Every place we go, our mud comes too. Just does. This is the kind of self-reality that is painful enough to ignore!

Mindfulness invites us not to ignore it but to appreciate it, to 'own' it, to notice how murky we sometimes make our interactions. Mindfulness also invites us to cultivate enough still places, deep places, for mud to settle out (at least somewhat). The lovely mix of patience and kindness toward ourselves that mindfulness encourages helps the settling out process work even better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prayer for now and not yet

Gracious God, your wisdom allows us to see this world both as it is and might be: give us grace and energy to work with you to move it toward what it might be, and give us grace and patience to live in and to love it as it is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mary Oliver's 'Mindful' aloud

YouTube Video

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Why I wake early


Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for--
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world--
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant--
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these--
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Thanks, Linda Kinnear, for sending this wonderful poem

Monday, September 20, 2010

Angel in the River

Below is the lectio readings the Ordinary Mindfulness crew used this morning (we meet at St D's at 7:30). Read over it perhaps paying attention to who you meet when you open mind and heart in meditation.

Lectio: Sept 20, 2010

Genesis 32 (Jacob on the night before reuniting with his brother Esau whose inheritance he stole many years before)

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28Then the man* said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,* for you have striven with God and with humans,* and have prevailed.’ 29Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel,* saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.


Whether in grief, anger, wanting, or restlessness, we can see that much of the work with the contractions of the heart is the work of our unfinished business. We encounter the forces and situations that have held us closed to ourselves and others. What is conflicted, ungrieved, unfinished shows itself as soon as we become attentive. It is here that we must learn how to work respectfully with the profound forces that govern human life. It is the layers of these energies that create contractions and suffering and the freeing of them that brings awakening and release. --After the Ecstasy the Laundry, Jack Kornfield

Friday, September 10, 2010

Turning Aside

4 Viburnum Leaves, taken lying on my back looking up through the leaves of a high-country viburnum into a very tall red spruce tree, blue sky beyond.

I often re-read RS Thomas's poem, The Bright Field:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

I drive people a little batty sometimes because lovely or odd bits of the natural world pull me like a magnet. The response 'pauses' conversations and hikes and sometimes even trips in the car. I've come to justify it under the general heading of 'the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush' which is a pretty lofty, perhaps self-serving, claim. is that. God as creator leaves DNA in every bit of creation. And the lovely bits are easier to celebrate--they act as a kind of worm hole, a direct-connect to awe and wonder and gratitude and the kind of expansive joy that fills up the heart afterwards. Not necessarily for very long--which is why we have to keeping turning and turning aside the miracles of lit bushes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Clear Eyes...Strong Hearts...Can't Loose.

That's what the coaches and team say before every game in Friday Night Lights. It's a great chant, wise and true. When our eyes take in clearly what's in front of us and when our hearts are strong enough to hold it all, then we're both more able to do our best (maybe a win) and live with whatever happens (maybe a loss).

The same chant could be used before meditation because it's very close to the substance of meditation. In every breath cycle we try to see clearly whatever we're thinking or feeling--to see it as it is not as we'd hoped it might be or how we think it should be. We just see it. At the same time we try to hold these thoughts and feelings gently, compassionately. Clear eyes, strong hearts.

It takes very little time for this practice to begin helping our 'game.' Spend 5, 10, 20 minutes in the morning immersed in clear seeing and big-hearted caring--it spills into your day. Something comes up. Something needs an action, a response. You remember to breathe. The habit is at hand. You see more and you see it more clearly. Your heart feels both a little braver and a little kinder.

Clear eyes. Strong hearts. Can't lose.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Spaciousnes...Give it to God

Sometimes when we feel particularly stuck or anxious about something a friend may say, 'Maybe it's time to give it to God.' Sometimes we remember to say it to ourselves. We've done all we can with whatever it is. It's time to quit stewing, fretting, reviewing.

Insight and prayer like this is a wonderful spaciousness practice. We start feeling cramped, then in a moment of sanity and a movement toward trust we connect with God. This doesn't mean we don't have a problem anymore. It means we've recognized we're stuck and and are choosing to get help.

But in doing this we're not really imagining God is reorganizing the world to make our problems go away, are we?

It's more like this. A serious gardening friend, Tom, used to start his own seeds in his garage. Lots of seeds. He's a wonderful gardener but not much of a seed-starter. Interestingly, one of his neighbors runs a commercial greenhouse. This guy is really good at turning seeds into baby plants. Ah! Maybe it's time to give it to Neil--which is what Tom does these days.

For the last few years Tom has ordered his usual wonderful variety of seeds, and when they come in the mail he gives them to Neil who gives them back in a month or two transformed and neatly arranged in a dozen or so trays of ready-to-plant veggies.

I have little idea what happens specifically when we give our problems to God. Perhaps the more specific we get when we talk about it the further we get from being faithful to the mystery of prayer, the mystery of God. I do know, metaphorically anyway, that seeds sprout wonderfully in this trusting sort of interaction and that life is more more fruitful because of it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rumi and Spaciousness

We can take life seriously and laugh in the same moment, which is a wonderful way of practicing spaciousness. Anytime we let things which seem mutually exclusive settle in us we're practicing spaciousness, allowing our hearts and minds to hold what's real instead of what's just convenient.

Rumi's great at this. He's a laughing mystic. Reading The Guest House (below) with a little extra attention, maybe like an actor trying on a role, letting our feelings and facial expressions go with the script, we get to audition for spaciousness.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house,
Every day a new arrival,
a joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected guest.
Welcome and entertain them all,
even if they are a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(translated by Coleman Barks)

What makes you smile? Or cringe? I marvel at Rumi's outrageous advice. All the negative bits are framed by words like welcome, entertain, treat honorably, meet, laugh, invite, be grateful.

I think engaging life with this kind of intent is what being 'a gatekeeper in the house of my God' is about--welcoming, welcoming, never mind the clothes or the smell or the rowdiness or the sense there's just not enough room! Welcome and entertain them all.