Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …

Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn
in every guise.
― Denise Levertov from A Grateful Heart

 

We forever drift in and out of the miracle before us. As our eyes dilate and constrict in order to see, we are opened by love, wonder, and truth into the immediacy of all that is incomprehensible, only to wrestle with pain, loss, and obstacles that make us constrict. And during the wrestle, the miracle of life seems out of reach. Though once enduring what we’re given, pain and loss open us further. This is how the human heart sees. Modern culture tells us that we are entitled to a perfect, happy life. Yet if we insist on deifying a painless life free of loss, we will only be battered by the pain and loss we are given and miss the point of the journey. Much as we’d like, we can’t be happy all the time, any more than we can dilate or inhale all the time. We need to dilate and constrict, and inhale and exhale, in order to live. And so, the heart, mind, and soul need to open and close to the entirety of the human experience in order to make sense of things as they move through. Difficult as they are, pain, loss, and obstacles are dynamic forces of life that make us open and close. It is up to us to make sense of our lifelong conversation with them. Continue reading “Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …”

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 …”

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 …”

From Acorn Into Oak Tree …

If you took a blue spruce tree and planted it in the desert, it would obviously perish. How do we forget that we too are living systems, and each of us have unique environments, needs, and conditions within which we flourish or wither?
— Dawna Markova from I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

 

You need not, and in fact cannot, teach an acorn to grow into an oak tree; but when given a chance, its intrinsic potentialities will develop. Similarly, the human individual, given a chance, tends to develop his particular human potentialities….In short, he will grow, substantially undiverted, toward self-realization. Continue reading “From Acorn Into Oak Tree …”

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

 

See Also:

 

 

To Enter the Song (The Real Challenge in Creativity) …

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.
― Martha Graham (as quoted in Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity)

 

There are three kinds of performers: The first, while singing a song or doing a dance, are making love to themselves. The second, while performing, are making love to the audience. The third, while on stage, are making love to the song, to the dance, to the drama itself.

Of course it’s not difficult to discern who the better performer is. The one making love to the song, of course, best honours the song and draws energy from some deeper place. And he or she does this by entering into and channelling the energy of the song rather than by entering into and channelling their own energy or the energy of the audience. What a good artist does, whether that be a singer, a writer, a painter, a dancer, a craftsperson, a carpenter, or a gardener is tap into the deep energies at the heart of things and draw on them to create something that is of God, namely, something that is one, true, good, and beautiful. In the end, and this is true of all good art and all good performance, creativity is not about the person doing the creation. It’s about oneness, truth, goodness, and beauty. Continue reading “To Enter the Song (The Real Challenge in Creativity) …”