When you’re like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, patience means just slowing down at that point—just pausing—instead of immediately acting on your usual, habitual response. You refrain from acting, you stop talking to yourself, and then you connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You’re not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t fuel the rage with your thoughts, you can be very honest about the fact that you long for revenge; nevertheless you keep interrupting the torturous story line and stay with the underlying vulnerability. That frustration, that uneasiness and vulnerability, is nothing solid. And yet it is painful to experience. Still, just wait and be patient with your anguish and with the discomfort of it. This means relaxing with that restless, hot energy—knowing that it’s the only way to find peace for ourselves or the world. Continue reading “Advent Day 05: Practicing Peace In Times of War …”
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all …
— Emily Dickinson, “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”
— Wendell Berry from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (“Grace”)
A Small, Soft Feather
a small, soft feather,
from bluebird’s wing,
falls onto the receptive
lightly it lands
under a thick-branched oak;
quietly it waits,
unnoticed, unattended, Continue reading “A Small, Soft Feather (Autumn Meditation) …”
Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
― Mary Oliver
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.
― Mary Oliver from House of Light (The Pond)
…we cannot be in the present moment and run our story lines at the same time!
― Pema Chödrön from When Things Fall Apart
I look; morning to night I am never done looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms wide open.
And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree –
they are all in this too.
― Mary Oliver from Devotions (Where Does The Temple Begin, Where Does It End)
At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Living Deep and Wide
Let us swing wide all the doors and windows of our hearts
on their rusty hinges
so we may learn how to open to life.
Let us see the light in the other and honor it
so we may lift one another on our shoulders
and carry each other along.
Let holiness move in us
so we may pay attention to its small voice
and give ourselves to life fully with both hands.
— Dawna Markova from Wide Open: On Living with Purpose and Passion
I’m in the process of becoming, in the process of evolving. I’m neither doomed nor completely free, but I’m creating my future with every word, every action, every thought.
— Pema Chödrön from When Things Fall Apart
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
― Mary Oliver from Devotions (The Swan)
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
― Mary Oliver from Devotions (Morning Poem)
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
I mean this
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door
to two strangers
it soon appeared,
not men at all,
It is my favorite story—
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive—
and for this alone
the gods loved them
and blessed them.
When the gods rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water
from a fountain,
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,
and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
but still they asked for nothing
beyond the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.
Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
whatever it was I said
I would be doing—
I was standing
at the edge of the field—
I was hurrying
through my own soul,
opening its dark doors—
I was leaning out;
I was listening.
— Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume 2
Put Yourself In The Way of Grace
“Put yourself in the way of grace,” says a friend of ours, who is a monk, and a
bishop; and he smiles his floating and shining smile.
And truly, can there be a subject of more interest to each of us than whether
or not grace exists, and the soul? And, consequent upon the existence of the soul,
a whole landscape of incorruptible forces, perhaps even a source, an almost
palpably suggested second universe? A world that is incomprehensible through
To believe in the soul—to believe in it exactly as much and as hardily as one
believes in a mountain, say, or a fingernail, which is ever in view—imagine the
consequences! How far-reaching, and thoroughly wonderful! For everything, by
such a belief, would be charged, and changed. You wake in the morning, the soul
exists, your mouth sings it, your mind accepts it. And the perceived, tactile
world is, upon the instant, only half the world!
How easily I travel, about halfway, through such a scenario. I believe in the
soul—in mine, and yours, and the blue-jay’s, and the pilot whale’s. I believe each
goldfinch flying away over the coarse ragweed has a soul, and the ragweed too,
plant by plant, and the tiny stones in the earth below, and the grains of earth as
well. Not romantically do I believe this, nor poetically, nor emotionally, nor
metaphorically except as all reality is metaphor, but steadily, lumpishly, and
The wild waste spaces of the sea, and the pale dunes with one hawk hanging
in the wind, they are for me the formal spaces that, in a liturgy, are taken up by
prayer, song, sermon, silence, homily, scripture, the architecture of the church
And as with prayer, which is a dipping of oneself toward the light, there is a
consequence of attentiveness to the grass itself, and the sky itself, and to the
floating bird. I too leave the fret and enclosure of my own life. I too dip myself
toward the immeasurable.
— Mary Oliver from Winter Hours
- Fear is the Cheapest Room in the House
- A Path & A Small Light
- Don’t Squander Joy
- Numb The Dark And You Numb The Light
- Joy Comes To Us In Ordinary Moments
- Unbind Me: A Prayer for Joy
Don’t squander joy. We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen — and they do happen — we are stronger.
— Brené Brown from Daring Greatly
Going too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember
almost everything it seems sometimes
and yet there are chances that come back Continue reading “Don’t Squander Joy …”
Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.
— Adrienne Rich from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence
When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
—John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
The ancient psalmist plucked his strings
and sang a sentence sprung from you:
“Be still and know that I am God”
Be still, my soul, like a winter landscape
which is wrapped in the white prayer shawl
of silent snow fringed with icy threads. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Take Refuge In Silence …”
In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life from the family to the national budget … Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Sabbath As Resistance …”