Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Divine Repose

I heard two very similar homilies during the first Week of Lent - one by an Episcopal priest - and the other by a Catholic lay deacon. 

Both acknowledged that a common question asked during this season is:


"What are you giving up for Lent?"

To which, both answered,


"Nothing."

In the first case, the priest is a woman who is presently burdened by many situations - and very much part of the "sandwich generation," and all which that label entails and demands. In the latter case, the person in question is both father and grandfather to several.

The first homilist focused on letting go of control during Lent - and letting God take the reigns of her life, which she had tried so hard to steer, to no avail. And of course, we all know, that outcomes don't often yield the results we planned or imagined.

The second, spoke of a time for seeding and growing, and fostering new practices and traits to enrich our lives, such as the cultivation of greater compassion.

In between both homilies I visited a friend, who is a massage therapist, for our occasional trade, and exchange of massage and Reiki sessions. She too - a busy wife, mother, grandmother, and caretaker to her grandson - shared that she had not considered giving anything up, and resonated with her Episcopal pastor's sermon.

Years ago, when I was teaching theology in Catholic schools, I used to tell my students that Lent was not so much a time for giving up candy and other such things - but that it was a time to cultivate something much richer in our lives - something that would bear fruit in the end - such as praying more regularly, or working on a quality we wished to embody in our lives, like love and respect for those in need or those closest to us. Or, committing to a social justice issue. These would surely be more lasting in the long run.

Not that refraining from sweets or social media - or other such things is not a worthwhile practice, but they do not tend to last. And often, we fail after a couple of days, and then beat ourselves up for doing so.

What if - instead of giving something up, we chose to rest and let go of all our cares and concerns, embraced in Divine repose?

What if - we gave up trying to make things go our way - or have others see things as we do and just simply let go - and let God?

These would not be easy choices - but they would be worthwhile. They might begin to cement into place practices that would enrich our lives for many years to come - far beyond one Lenten season. We could even recommit to it in a subsequent year.

After all, are we not weary of beating ourselves down for all the missed marks of our lives?

This year, I simply want to let go and let God.

This year, I simply want to rest in the sweet embrace of Divine repose.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Everything in God: The Journey Begins

I am poised to begin the Lenten journey once again, ready to commence it with a seal of ashes tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. Such an ancient ritual - but for the past few years it has been a time of personal growth and recommitment for me...

A few years ago, I gathered my Lenten entries from over the years and forged them into a collection I titled, Everything in God and God in Everything...

I repeat those words today, as a mantra...

"Everything in God and God in Everything."

As in other years, Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, observed by many friends, also coincides with this journey...

Years ago, a friend gave me a photo with this quote:

"I do not know what it calls me to, but I recognize the Voice."

I truly do not know what - or where that Voice calls me to - but I know I must respond and go where I am led. It has become more insistent and persistent over the years...

The Voice speaks. It beacons. It invites me to a journey. It will be long. It has been long.

"Here I am. I am ready. Speak. Your servant is listening."

I look, as it if were - downstream on the river, as I paddled so often - cognizant of where I had been and where I needed to go, at the time.

I have learned the destination does not matter. It is all about the journey...

The journey begins once again. And in many ways, I have prepared for it - not knowing what it will call me to - but knowing I must go...

I think of a dear friend, on her way to India, being called there in spirit by her teacher - dropping everything at once, and responding by traveling half way around the world, because she listened - deeply - always ready for the next invitation in her journey. It is a lesson to me...

There is no place, and no destination...

Rumi, a recently read book, and my own Guide remind me:

"Everything you need is already inside you...

"Everything in God and God in everything..."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why and Where

Recently, a dear friend from my graduate school days, sent me this quote, on a day when things were out of sorts:

"Whatever is happening in your life,
don't pre-occupy yourself
with the question
WHY?

But rather ponder more on to 
WHERE
these events will be bringing you.

Know you are being led to
somewhere beautiful,
beyond your present harsh reality.

Once you get to the WHERE,
then you'll know the WHY."
~ Unknown

In a week or two filled with infinite requests for prayers by many in need, and in such dire circumstances, I round out this week by reflecting on these words and the comfort they bring me.

I share them with you, in hopes that you may find solace in them as well!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

I slept in a bit this morning, and then quietly donned sweats and bundled up, and headed down to the river with my coffee. I had not been there in months!

It was very cold for me - the temperature hovering in the low twenties - and ice clung to the riverbanks, as the rushing river passed on by.

I said my prayers, chanted the Reiki precepts and poured out my heart to God...

I've felt a little unsettled of late in my life, and after a while, feeling chilled to the bone, I retreated to my car, parked in front of the boat ramp where I launched my kayak regularly for years.

I sat, I meditated and I watched the river - the waves briskly moving downstream. And then, I simply heard within me:


"This too, shall pass."

All of the things that most consume our thoughts - our pain, our sadness, our regrets  and our hurts - our very lives - they will all pass. But only love will remain...

I reflected on a number of things weighing deep in my heart - some of which I have shared with a few - some of which I have not - and in that moment - I saw everything lifting and floating away down river. I somehow saw a life that was very different, knowing that this moment would also pass.

There was something very freeing in that exercise of dwelling upon a score of different circumstances, and knowing that they would all eventually pass.

I thought of what I had accomplished thus far in my life - and what I still wanted to do in the time remaining - knowing all would not perhaps turn out the way I envisioned - but that it would also pass...

I thought of what would remain: the times I loved, the times I reached out, the times I tried my best - even when it seemed it wasn't good enough - and most of all - what would also remain is the intent behind it all - the striving to do better, to care, and to make a difference.


"This too, shall pass.

There is nothing that cannot be overcome. For love, endures forever. Nothing else matters.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Contemplating the Real Questions

Recently, I came across these questions posited by Henri Nouwen, who was one of my favorite spiritual writers from the seventies, in addition to Thomas Merton, whose centenary happens to be today. Both of these prolific writers, teachers, priests and mystics, exerted a deep influence on my spirituality.

I read and reflected on these questions, finding them to be quite powerful and a useful tool, and so I saved them, because they are truly perennial questions - meant to be asked over and over again - scrutinized, masticated, authentically pondered, and even verbalized out loud, until they become so deeply internalized that they become part of the fabric of our minds, our prayers, our hearts, and our spirituality.

I can think of no better questions to ask myself at the end of my day as I take time to review  events experienced and encountered, before drifting off to sleep or finishing my night prayers.

As I close out the first month of this still, fairly new year, I commit to asking myself these questions, desiring to slowly work towards a time when I can answer affirmatively to each and every one of them - every single day!


Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone's face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.
~ Henri Nouwen


Monday, January 26, 2015

Have You Been Called?

A week ago, I heard a homily by a deacon of one of the churches that I attend, and I have been thinking about it ever since. It was given in response to the reading from the prophet Samuel, where God calls him in the night, and Samuel responds with one of my favorite prayers and lines:

"Speak Lord. Your servant is listening."

Perhaps none of us have been called in such a dramatic way. But we are all called in many ways, and some of them can be very simple.

For example, you are called:

When you are a witness to someone's story, or pain - and touch someone's hand - or wipe away their tear...

When you selflessly give of your time and your heart...

When you witness an injustice, and decide to correct it, or do something about it - or  seek to educate others about it...

When you decide that your work conflicts with your values and you make the decision to move on...

When you dedicate your time, your effort, or your resources, to helping those in need...

When you decide you are going to make your neighborhood, your community, your country - or better yet - this planet a better place...

When you become a voice for the Voiceless and the disenfranchised...

When you make subtle changes in your life or your behavior to become a better person...

When you commit yourself to a practice: meditation, yoga, joining a prayer group - or carve out time for spiritual reading or nourishing yourself in some life-giving and soulful way...

When you passionately take on the task of making a difference in a matter of social justice...

When you set boundaries for yourself...

When you decide that embodying compassion is one of life's greatest tasks and there is no greater love than reaching out to others...

When you take the time to listen - truly and deeply to the gentlest stirrings within your heart...

You have been called by God - or by a power greater than yourself - when you listen. But most especially, when you answer...


Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Can I Love Enough?

Earlier this week, I wrote an entry entitled, "Did you love enough?"

Of course, the question was meant for myself: 

"Did I love enough 
in those situations I faced  in the past - 
and am I loving enough 
in these situations I am currently living?"

And as I have been reflecting on those questions - and its corollary, 

"Have I loved myself enough?" 

I have inevitably been led to consider the following questions:

"How can I love enough?" 

That is to say - 

"How can I love more?"

And then logically, the next question to follow, is simply: 

"How can I love myself more?"

Needless to say, these will keep me entertained for quite some time...

Though this month has not been as slow as I would have wished, I look forward to some days in the near future - hopefully ones that are not as cold as it has been thus far - where I can sit by the riverbank and explore these questions more deeply.

"How can I love enough?
How can I love those around me more?
How can I be more compassionate?
How can I love myself more?
What must I do?"

I invite you to do the same! Find a place where you can be alone with your own thoughts to see where they lead you!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Did You Love Enough?

"Did you love enough?"

This question has been haunting me for nearly a month - ever since a friend brought it up as she reflected on her life and situation.

I went home that afternoon, daring to ask myself the same thing:

"Did I love enough?"

Did I love enough in that situation in the past? Am I loving enough in this situation now?

And inevitably that morphed into:

"Have I loved myself enough?"

No matter the question or its variation - the answer is always the same:

NO.

We can never love enough - whether it is someone else - or ourselves. Love by its very nature is expansive. There is always more room to grow.

In loving others however, the key is to love without attachment, without holding on - without being needy. And in loving ourselves - we may simply just need to set boundaries and allow ourselves the right to practice self-care.

We can never love enough - just as we can never meditate deeply enough. We never arrive. There is always another layer - another depth to plumb - there is always more. There is always the possibility for expanding our capacity for love.

The opportunity to shift things is never absent to us - we have the ability to go to the next level, if we are always seeking the highest, even in the most complicated of situations. I believe, that somehow - Love is always the answer and there is always more of it that lies waiting at our core, joyfully expecting to be discovered.

There is so much more that I had intended to share here today, but I know it is not necessary. The question speaks for itself. As does the answer.

As I begin this new year, I do so with this mantra, and with this insatiable query - boring its way into the core of my essence, leading to new realms of self-discovery:

"Did I love enough?"

Even when I felt most hurt by the actions - or the inactions of others?

"Did I love myself enough?"

In those moments when I felt most spent and could not even breathe? Did I take the time to nourish myself even when there were so many demands caving in all around me?

The answer is always NO.

But, every day we can begin again. We can love a little more. We can bring just a tad more compassion to every situation. And we can take a moment or two to breathe and practice self care.

"I can never, EVER Love enough!"

And somehow, that brings me incredible comfort!