Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent - A Time for Humility and Connection

When you surrender, as the sacred season of Advent invites you to do, you step into a river of grace, holding you captive in its flow. Miracles will open up like rose petals, only to reveal more blessings deeply hidden in its sacred inner sanctum...

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Holiness is everywhere!

I drink a hot cup of tea and reflect on how I have spent years trying to deepen and cultivate greater compassion in all things, but now it seems, the cultivation of humility is the next step logical step to usher in deeper soul cleansing, healing, and transmutation...

My heart is filled with many new and sweet memories...

I am honored to have participated last evening in a service of "Lessons and Carols" at St David's Episcopal Church, in Ashburn, Virginia, near my home. I was profoundly moved by the readings, the exquisite music, and the discernible joy which exuded from all the participants, including the rector, who upon hearing of my experiences embraced me, and invited to be be as involved in the choir or any part of the community's offerings as much as I would like or was able to be. I have rarely experienced such openness in any community that I have belonged to.

Later that night, in the darkness, punctuated by colorful Christmas lights, and warmed by another cup of tea, My thoughts turned lovingly to the dear friend who first introduced me to this community in a circuitous way. She brought me the first group of yoga students to teach out of my home, many years ago, when I was lost, having been more or less forced out of a community I had belonged to. These women unbeknownst to me at the time, were members of this parish, and I gained confidence and my own voice from teaching them.

Later, this same friend, a gifted massage therapist whom I had trained in Reiki, asked me to do healing work with her on a friend and young mom, dying of cancer. Still, much later, when I was looking for a prayer community to belong to, she brought me to St David's, and I have been there ever since, coming to know and appreciate the women who have regularly attended. We have been bridges of support and nets cast with love, embracing each other's pain and rejoicing in each other's graces as well.

I drink my tea in the dark, very humbled indeed, amazed that I had not realized how important this simple thread became a web of connection in my life. The Divine truly works in mysterious ways! And marveling at the many blessings bestowed on me, my soul exclaimed, "Magnificat, anima mea!" My soul truly magnifies the Divine!" I only hope that I may reach that time when my soul blesses everything, always!

I prepared this morning for my last yoga class of the session. It is customary now, for this community to bring lovingly baked goods, which we share while drinking coffee and tea, and like Mary and Elizabeth, we too support one another on our way through life. We are a diverse group, ethnically, politically, and in many other ways - but we are truly one in our diversity.

My lovelies come today, bearing other gifts as well! I am grateful beyond words, but perhaps it is the letter written by one that most deeply touches me, and humility and gratitude swell in my heart with thanksgiving for a deep soul connection made. Once more I am in awe at how Divine Providence brought together two souls experiencing their own personal struggles and challenges, only to experience healing and sacred graces in each other's presence.

This season of surrender, of expectation, pregnant with with blessings, gifts, possibilities, webs of connection, sacredness, and profound insights, and great joy - is perhaps more dear and meaningful to me than Christmas itself.  It is always the preparation we put in the doing of giving a gift that most fills my heart: the love and happiness we see in a loved one when she opens our present!

I am overwhelmed with gratitude and love as I go off to run my errands, and even the depressed young man I often seek out as a cashier at the grocery store, looks up at me in the eye - and says to me - for the very first time - before I can even say it: "YOU have a good day!"

Miracles are everywhere - if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear!

I drive home, and the thought comes to me - it is not my duty to change anyone or anything. My only duty in this life, is to LOVE...

And this is truly the Season for LOVE!



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Prayer Journey to My Happy Place

Today, after a couple of days of rain, and several weeks of absence, I returned to my "happy place," the river, that invited me nearly a decade ago, to begin this journey of writing, of growing, and transforming.

Today, a new month begins.

Today, is the first day of that month.

Today, my thoughts are elsewhere - with a dear friend who manifested a new home by the sea, and today - it is hers...

Today, I think of the importance of manifesting dreams, of taking care of ourselves, and of having at least one happy place to go to.

Today, I reflect on all that the season of Advent invites us to do and to become, drawing us more deeply into a time of preparation and waiting. Indeed, there is so much to prepare for on so many levels of our lives.

Today, we begin the last month of this year. It has been a difficult year for me personally, punctuated by the most contentious Presidential election in memory, and dare I say - even in our history as a nation. Some rejoice at the outcome, while others have been plunged into despair and uncertainty. Polarization and division are its fruits, as well as uncertainty as we tread uncharted terrain.

Today, I cannot do anything but look forward to tomorrow...

I did not consciously intend to take a break from my writing this blog, but I did. I took nearly a year long break from a lot of things as I searched for answers and a new sense of direction and course for my life.

Today, I am very cognizant of the winds of change coming and needing to fortify myself and take refuge in my practices.

And so I went down to the river and prayed. Out loud. So many prayers - for so many people and situations: affirmations, prayers of healing - of supplication, of forgiveness and reconciliation - and prayers for guidance and illumination. From my heart poured out a veritable Litany and Psalter of prayers!

I came down to the river to pray and to reflect. To ask for blessings and healing for others. And to marinate recent insights.

I have also been thinking of several conversations and readings which have converged into one seamless garment of important realizations for me:

There is no life without challenge. We all have our own unique crosses to bear.

And it is in these places and experiences that we are most invited to grow.

We either make choices to grow and become most fully whom we are meant to be, or we do not. The choice is ours. And ONLY ours.

We are not responsible for anyone's salvation but our own.

It does not matter who we are, what we do - or what beliefs we espouse. 

There is no perfect religion, or political system, or over-arching philosophy or practice for everyone.

It only matters what we learn from all of the life experiences that we are given, and how we respond to our challenges to grow.

It is not about reaching a destination in this lifetime.

It is instead, about how the journey unfolds.

There is ultimately no right and no wrong in this life - but only how much love we put into the doing, and the giving.

It is not always about changing the people or the circumstances around us - but in learning how to become less reactive to it all.

And it is the challenges we are given that enable us to become less reactive.

It is in becoming less reactive that we are truly shown our practice.

It is not about making ourselves heard or making a big splash - but about greeting all of life's offerings with balance, mindfulness, and equipoise.

It is not about doing great things - it is about doing little things with great love.

It is about making a difference - by embodying compassion.

And these Lessons are never over!

So these are the insights that I brought to the river to marinate and internalize.

I began and ended my sojourn to my happy place at the river this morning with this prayer by Tosha Silver, the amazing author of Outrageous Openness and Change Me Prayers. A dear friend recently printed and framed it for my birthday, and I brought the frame with me to the river. I prayed it. Deeply. Fervently. And out loud:

"Divine Beloved, Change Me into someone
who can give with complete ease and abundance,
knowing You are the unlimited Source of All.

Let me be an easy open conduit for Your prosperity.
Let me trust that all of my own needs are
always met in amazing ways
and it is safe to give freely as my heart guides me.

And equally, please Change Me into someone
who can feel wildly open to receiving.
Let me know my own value, beauty and
worthiness without question.
Let me allow others the supreme pleasure of giving to me.
Let me feel worthy to receive in every possible way.

And let me extend kindness to all who need,
feeling compassion and understanding
in even the hardest situations.

Change me into One who can fully love, forgive
and accept myself... so I may carry your Light
without restriction.

Let everything that needs to go, go.
Let everything that needs to come, come.
I am utterly Your own.

You are Me.
I am You.
We are One.

All is well.




Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Towards Greater Detachment

I wake up to a beautiful blanket of falling snow - big, fat, gum drops of flakes that take my breath away...

I look out with awe, from my perch on the couch, with warm coffee and a newspaper in hand, stealing glances every so often, hoping it will not go away just yet...

I don warm clothes and go for a long walk in the falling snow, on this day before the start of Lent, reflecting on what I shall focus on, and what attributes I wish to more deeply cultivate.

I reflect on deep conversations and walks with a soul companion which transpired last weekend, out in the Virginia country home where she resides - where the stillness and the dark of night are so incredibly pronounced, and the quiet is only interrupted by the conversations of neighboring horses, cows, and goats.

We cover so much ground and territory - holding nothing back - washing it down with copious libation, into the early hours of the morning...

I sleep under a skylight feeling that angels and sacred beings  are reaching down and touching me through this opening, doing their healing work while I toss between various levels of consciousness.

I tell my soul friend that I have been moving through layers and layers of detachment - slowly stripping away all that does not belong and that has held me back in some way or another, for what seems like an infinity.

I tell my dear friend that it is all about preparing to die, for in the latter half of our lives nothing else matters. We must let go of all attachments that we have - to outcomes, to relationships, to preconceived notions of what success and a life well lived looks like and whatever else others, or society has deemed worthy of attaining...

And so, I let go. I let go - again and again - and for the first time I truly sense I am getting somewhere and am beginning to embody the inherent freedom that lies in letting go. I could not have imagined being where I am ten years ago - or five - or even two - but here I am nonetheless - even though I also acknowledge that I have yet quite far to go...

I think of all these things as I continue walking - laden with the heaviness of very wet flakes cleansing my heart and soul in preparation for the beginning of a sacred season of 40 days of what I hope, will culminate in inner transformation.

With every step I leave behind the heaviness of the past - moving carefully and yet diligently towards a future that has not yet revealed its face but that is truly on its way.

Everything I have done and experienced has contributed to my becoming the person that I am right now, in this moment...

I think of wine and lives and hearts and tribulations shared in the darkest dark of night where it seems even time can stand still. It is a sacred time and holy encounter - of soul communion - bread broken and shared - the cup of wine offered for spiritual cleansing, and the witness of soul to soul confession with the reception of Divine absolution.

I am open to where this coming season of Lent will take me just as I am receptive to the advice and suggestions freely given to me between bites of dark chocolate and a good bottle of merlot. I am also reminded that gratitude is the key the opens the door to everything: To every gift under the sun. And so we recite our responsorial  prayer of "Thank You!" to every challenge we revisit.

I am grateful for all that is and was - and ever shall be in this incredible journey towards greater detachment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A 1000 Ways to Give Thanks

I begin a journal of writing down 1000 things I am grateful for - 1000 reasons to give thanks and to touch the sky and kiss the earth...

I am moved to do so, after reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are...

We miss so many of the opportunities we could be grateful for - for they are truly the simple things that fill our quotidian life and endeavors - a smile, a touch, a good cup of coffee, the sunrise, a walk through the woods, or your neighborhood, precious time spent with a loved one... There is such beauty in simplicity and often, it is so easy to miss...

And it takes a snow storm - no - a blizzard - to slow me down - to show me the way of simplicity, of gratitude, of the exquisite beauty of a storm raging without any checks and balances, with nothing to corner it in...

When it ends, everything is blanketed in stillness... There are no paths or streets - and no demarcations between one dwelling and the next... All of our self-imposed separations have been erased... There are no "Jews or Greeks, or Gentiles" as scripture notes - there simply is no "you" or "me." We are all ONE in this winter wonderland!

I sit in the whiteness of it all - stretching forth and holding court - with no beginning and no ending to its borders, and I take up my pen in hand and begin my list...

I write... I put down my pen to paper to begin my exercise... I am slow... I, who wrote so many stories and "books" dating back to the dawn of my own life, now find this process so clumsy. It is slow and awkward. Even difficult. This is what word processing has done to me. It has eliminated skills and softened calluses, and yet its potent message is simply to slow down. I HAVE to, in order to write. But I must also slow down to relish the space and time in between and enter deeply into the Present Moment...

And why write this list?

Because...


"One act of thanksgiving
when things go wrong with us,
is worth a thousand thanks
when things are agreeable
to our inclinations.
~ St John of the Cross

Thanksgiving creates an attitude of gratitude... And for that, I read recently - we need "altitude." We must soar above our problems and biases, and our stubbornness. We must learn to relinquish our closely guarded inclinations. As the Bhagavad Gita teaches, we cannot solve the problems we have at hand if we are not willing to look at them from a higher perspective.


"Thanksgiving creates abundance,
and the miracle of multiplying
happens when I give thanks."
~ Ann Voskamp

I read that we fail as human beings when we choose ingratitude over thanksgiving...

"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything.
He who has learned this, knows what it means to live.
He has penetrated the whole mystery of life:
Giving thanks for everything."
~ Albert Schweitzer

In order to live a life of thanksgiving, we must first be present to all that is. True joy is only available to us when we let go and allow ourselves to be fully embraced by the present moment. It is here that grace dwells. And joy is embodied. We cannot see it - feel it - touch or taste it anywhere else...

And thus, one small act of thanksgiving becomes radical and counter-cultural in more ways than I could ever begin to list here.

To live a life of gratitude as Ann Voskamp notes, is to: 


"Make every moment a cathedral of giving glory...
the moment into a cupola of grace, 
an architecture of holiness - a place for God. 
That makes NOW a sanctuary."

As the hours upon hours of snow falling and its aftermath creates my own cathedral and sanctuary of Divine Presence, made manifest in simple acts of gratitude, my life slows down to the crawl of the Present Moment... This Holy Instant... This Sacred Moment which is neither here nor there where I am Eternally Home...

And how could I not give thanks for that?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Call to Greater Silence

This New Year is calling me to greater Silence...

I awaken several times this week, as the first rays of dawn trickle into my bedroom - slyly coaxing me to rouse - beckoning me to meditation and quiet contemplation, and to the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, in solidarity with monastic communities everywhere...

I move about this day - in total Silence...

Everything I seem to stumble upon in my reading brings me back to the importance and necessity of Silence in this point and time...

From those first rays of dawn to the first inkling of twilight - my day progresses - with its many domestic duties gently unfolding and spilling into each other, in total and simple Silence...

I speak not a word, to anyone - save for my prayers, internally voiced, which I lay at the feet of the Divine...

It is truly delicious for me in every way!

Yes, I feel a call to greater Silence, to Quiet, to drawing more deeply Inward, and to spending less time online with its many distractions...

In the evenings, after dinner, I sit down with a cup of tea and choose to read instead. Lord knows I have accumulated enough books to populate a library many times over, so there is  certainly enough reading to entertain me for the rest of my life!

Silence beckons, and in the richness of its embrace, I strive to LISTEN!

I Listen, I let go - I create space...

I remind myself to bless circumstances, people, and every troublesome thought that arises in my mind, and that is not to say this is an easy task, but it is necessary to my own growth and well-being...

I bless the spaces between myself and those relationships in need of repair. I bless those souls that have come and gone in my life - and those I must now release...

In the Silence I cleanse my body and my heart - to make more room for the Divine to reside and for whatever is to come...

"The quieter you become,
the more you are able to hear."
~ Rumi


In Silence   

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your
Name.

Listen
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Who
Are you? Whose
Silence
Are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not 
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Rather
Be what you are (but who?) Be
The unthinkable one.
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

"I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can one be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can one dare
To sit with them
When all their silence is on fire?"

~ Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Year of Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I wrap myself up in blankets and don toasty slippers on these cold winter days...

I drink tea, and move slowly, and I think of what I would like to birth this year...

There are so many things I would like to do and experience, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time for entraining with the rhythms of nature - it is a time for slowing down, for practicing self-care, and for nurturing the soul...

Somehow, I sense this year will be different. I choose to dedicate it in a different way than I have in the past...

There is much to do - much to clear - different directions to take - and all will unfold in its own time and in divine order...

I embrace the long dark evenings and let go of what does not serve, in so many ways...

I warm my hands around one cup of tea after another, and reflect on the attributes and values I want to cultivate this year.

Like Pope Francis, I want to focus on the embodiment and greater reflection of mercy. But in order to do that, I must exercise greater compassion and grace...

The energy of this year already feels different...

If I spent the second half of last year cleaning and clearing out my house and putting it in order - it is now beckoning me to take it to the next level even as I reach physical goals I had set for myself.

Throughout it all, through whatever uncertainty there is - and what may come - I find myself humming to myself...

All shall be well...

All is unfolding in divine order...

Everything is as it should be...

I will continue to open and embrace whatever comes my way and whatever I am given...

I will lighten my load and footprint even more...

May I cultivate greater compassion, and mercy, and grace - and Love. Yes, always love!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Open Wide to the Future

I do not end - and do not begin the bookend years the way I have done in the past - not in how I spend my time, not in the rituals I have regularly engaged in - not even in the food I normally make or eat!

All about the year ending and the one beginning is different...

I am aware of profound changes taking place - in my life - in the lives of many dear ones - and in the energy fields that surround us - and so much more...

The latter half of this year witnessed a cleansing for me - of home - of body and spirit - deep changes I did not plan and could not have foreseen...

All of it has resulted in a "lightening" of the load in my life and home - and as I begin this year - I realize it must go even further!

I've detached from so much - and find it so much easier to do so...

Profound insights come to me that significantly alter my perspective - my understanding, and my deep "inner knowing..."


All shall be well...

I dedicated this year to Mary and the Divine Feminine in all its manifestations - and to Mercy - for Pope Francis himself has deemed it the theme for his Holy Year...

I step into the New Year without fanfare - in the quiet - very simply - but with my arms outstretched and my heart open...

And I remember these simple words, by a Jesuit whose writings on spirituality nourished my soul four decades ago. It becomes emblematic of the year that is to come - MY Holy Year!


"Spread your arms wide into the future.
The best is yet to come!"
~ Anthony de Mello, SJ


Friday, December 11, 2015

I am at Peace With All That IS!

"I am at PEACE with ALL that IS!"

This mantra arises in my heart, barely just a week ago, after a magical weekend of seasonal and holiday music and a warm visit with a very dear soul friend of the heart...

I drive through the countryside, on a magnificent and brilliant afternoon, after stepping out of place and time, inhabiting a place in-between here and the Other Side, for barely 24 hours...

I AM at Peace, with ALL that IS!

Truly...

I am peace with my life, my relationships, my home, my family, my friends - with my limitations, what I did not accomplish - and where I am in my life...



I am at peace with whatever the future brings, with what I cannot undo, with what is yet to come...

I am at peace with the joys, with the sorrows - and with all that I have gained and lost...

I am at peace with everything - for it has made me the woman I am today - and have yet to become...

In the twilight of my life, as I journey towards the darkest deep of Night - pointing towards the tunnel of the Infinite Light I will someday traverse, I give thanks for all that is...

Any slight variation to the course of my life - and I would not be who I am. I would not have had the experiences, or the insights, or the breakthroughs that I have had.

I might not have had the treasured companions I have been blessed with or the severed relationships that were instrumental in midwifing my soul's birth and continual development...

All shall be well...

It always is, in retrospect...

Regardless of how much times remains in my life - whether it be many years - or not so much,

I AM at PEACE with ALL that IS!

And my heart sings! And my soul soars heavenward with so much gratitude and JOY!