You Will Not Have My Hate …

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. 
— James A. Baldwin

Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.

I can’t think of a more powerful example than the sentence, “You will not have my hate.” In November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed by terrorists at the Bataclan theater in Paris along with eighty-eight other people. Two days after the attacks, in an open letter to his wife’s killers posted on Facebook, Leiris wrote: Continue reading “You Will Not Have My Hate …”

The Wisdom Of Beauty …

I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire:
to hold beauty in
my soul’s
arms.
— St. John of the Cross from Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

What’s Important in Life?

Once upon a time, there was an elder who was respected for his piety and virtue. Whenever anyone asked him how he had become so holy, he always answered, “I know what is in the Qur’an.”

So when the old man died, they raced one another to his hut to find out for themselves what was in his Qur’an. “Well, what is it?” they shouted.

The disciple holding the book looked up from it amazed and said with wonder in his voice, “What is in this Qur’an are notes on every page, two pressed flowers and a letter from a friend.”

There are some things in life, whatever its burdens, however it is spent, which if we cultivate them will never die, will be the source of our joy forever, will sustain us through everything.

Continue reading “The Wisdom Of Beauty …”

Different Paths …

I add my breath to your breath
that our days may be long on the Earth,
that the days of our people may be long,
that we shall be as one person,
that we may finish our road together.
— Prayer of the Laguna Pueblo people from World as Lover, World as Self

 

We don’t have to surrender our individuality to experience the world as an extended self and its story as our own extended story. The liver, leg, and lung that are ‘mine’ are highly distinct from each other, thank goodness, and each has a distinctive role to play. The larger ‘selfness’ we discover today is not an undifferentiated unity. As in all living systems, intelligence depends on the integrative play of diversity. Diversity is a source of resilience. This is good news because this time of great challenge demands more commitment, endurance, and courage than any one of us can dredge up out of our own individual supply. We can learn to draw on the other neurons in the neural net and view them with gratitude. The acts and intentions of others are like seeds that can germinate and bear fruit through our own lives, as we take them in and dedicate that awareness to the healing of our world. Continue reading “Different Paths …”

A Companion That Walks Beside Us …

Empathy is connection … Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance. …

… Empathy is a strange and powerful thing. There is no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’

— Brené Brown from Daring Greatly

 

There’s no way to be spared sorrow. I wouldn’t even wish that upon someone. But we shouldn’t get stuck in our grief; it’s not a permanent address but a companion that walks beside us. Everything I love, I will lose. That’s the harsh truth. You either have to shut down your heart — and miss the love that is around you — or wrestle with that truth and come out the other end. There is indeed such a thing as joyful sorrow. Continue reading “A Companion That Walks Beside Us …”

Invisible Connections (The Beauty of Our Lives) …

Think of yourself as an incandescent power, illuminated and perhaps forever talked to by God and his messengers.
― Brenda Ueland from If You Want To Write

 

The Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers. Continue reading “Invisible Connections (The Beauty of Our Lives) …”

Autumn Sunset …

Autumn in my part of the world is a season of bounty and beauty. It’s also a season of steady decline—and, for some of us, a slow slide into melancholy. The days become shorter and colder, the trees shed their glory, and summer’s abundance starts to decay toward winter’s death.

I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: All the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as Earth prepares for yet another uprising of green. Continue reading “Autumn Sunset …”

House Of Light …

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
lavishly,
every morning,
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)

 

 

Mockingbirds

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
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,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down—
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
this morning—
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
reason?

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
absolutely.

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
itself.

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

 

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