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 …”
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 …”
How far I have to go to find you in whom I have already arrived!
— Thomas Merton
The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth has no dead ends.
The famed eleven-circuit labyrinth inlaid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France has just one path, which takes the pilgrim in and out of four quadrants in a spiraling motion through dozens of left and right turns, before reaching its rosette center. Such a pattern invites meditation, and reminds the pilgrim the journey of faith is rarely a straightforward one. Continue reading “Labyrinths: No Step Taken In Faith Is Wasted …”
We want life to be as dazzling and painless as possible. Life, on the other hand, has a way of humbling us, and heartbreak is built into its agreement with the world. We’re young, until we’re not. We’re healthy, until we’re not. We’re with those we love, until we’re not. Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. One of the greatest human triumphs is to choose to make room in our hearts for both the joy and the pain, and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This means seeing feelings not as being “good” or “bad” but as just “being.” Yes, there is this relentless assumption in our culture that we need to do something when we have inner turmoil. We must struggle with it, fix it, control it, exert brute-force willpower over it, remain positive. What we really need to do, though, is also what is most simple and obvious: nothing. That is, to just welcome these inner experiences, breathe into them, and learn their contours without racing for the exits. Continue reading “Courage Is Fear Walking …”
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning
— T. S. Eliot from The Four Quartets
A Song for New Beginnings
Let go of what’s done
Of what’s gone
Of what is finally over
Though the traces linger
To remind you
Of what you’ve lost Continue reading “The Light Is Returning (A Song For New Beginnings) …”
But for me, winter has an even greater gift to give. It comes when the sky is clear, the sun is brilliant, the trees are bare, and first snow is yet to come. It is the gift of utter clarity. In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly, singly and together, and see the ground they are rooted in.
A few years ago, my father died. He was more than a good man, and the months following his death were a long, hard winter for me. But in the midst of that ice and loss, I came into a certain clarity that I lacked when he was alive. I saw something that had been concealed when the luxuriance of his love surrounded me—saw how I had relied on him to help me cushion life’s harsher blows. When he could no longer do that, my first thought was, “Now I must do it for myself.” But as time went on, I saw a deeper truth: it never was my father absorbing those blows but a larger and deeper grace that he taught me to rely on. Continue reading “The Winters Will Drive You Crazy Until You Learn To Get Out Into Them …”
It was a curious thing. Robert had filled the bathtub and put the fish in the tub, so he could clean their tank. After he’d scrubbed the film from the small walls of their make believe deep, he went to retrieve them.
He was astonished to find that, though they had the entire tub to swim in, they were huddled in a small area the size of their tank. There was nothing containing them, nothing holding them back. Why wouldn’t they dart about freely? What had life in the tank done to their natural ability to swim?
This quiet yet stark moment stayed with us both for a long time. We couldn’t help but see those little fish going nowhere but into themselves. We now had a life-in-the-tank lens on the world and wondered daily, In what ways are we like them? In what ways do we go nowhere but into ourselves? In what ways do we shrink our world so as not to feel the press of our own self-imposed captivity? Continue reading “In Wisdom’s Path …”