Showing posts from January, 2011

To Die Slowly and to Live Fully

What does a life well lived look like? Conversely, what are the characteristics of one that is wasted and squandered away? As I reflect more deeply on the meaning of life and death, I reviewed a Power Point presentation that my mother sent me recently of a poem attributed to Pablo Neruda , the Chilean poet who spent a portion of his life in exile, and who was also the subject of the wonderful movie, "Il Postino," in the mid-nineties, although some of my online research, disputed his authorship. Still, I was captivated by its message. I read between the verses of "Muere Lentamente" or "Die Slowly," and discovered a manifesto for living one's life as fully and completely as possible. I offer it here, in an adapted translation, as the perfect "book end" companion to my recent entries... Die Slowly The one who becomes a slave to habit, who follows the same routines every day, who never changes pace, and does not risk changing the color o

Aligning with the Divine

Today I woke up feel very down, but in the morning I was reminded of the title of this blog - "Aligning with Grace" - which means in essence, to live from a place where we are always aligning with the Divine... I shared with my students this morning, that I do not always feel like I align with the Divine. One of them seemed very surprised I said this, because she felt that I do this. I gently noted, that I strive to align with the Divine for the most part in my words and actions, but that I know I often miss the mark... I was reminded of the importance of aligning with the Divine, as I read the daily update on my friend Lili Cunningham, who is transitioning. Her husband Bill, titled the post, "Turning to the Light." And I thought to myself, when we align with the Divine - we turn towards the light, as a sunflower does, which the update duly noted. My friend always did that, for she lived fully and deeply, in all her experiences and encounters. Now, in her slow and

Arms of Love

I arise and step into a day of silence, for Tuesdays is often a hallowed gift to myself - a day that I allow to unfold in whatever way the Spirit moves and prompts... But today, I am filled with thoughts, and love, and prayers, for a friend who is transitioning, and I turn to read, as I have every morning now for weeks and months, the daily entry describing the details of her previous day... Today, all of us - near and far - who are following this journey, are praying, and standing vigil, knowing that the end is finally very near... I read today's posting, and find it heart-breaking, and though I am not physically present at her bedside, my heart is very much there. I find myself revisiting memories of happier days, as we began marriages, over 30 years ago, and had children, who have long since grown into adulthood... I visit the river which is quite and cold. A crest of waves literally frozen in place fascinates me, as a squirrel scampers about. I tell him to be careful, lest

All You Need is Love

I awaken before dawn, before going off to teach, and take a moment to check in at my computer to read the daily blog posting, so beautifully and eloquently describing a friend's gradual transition from this life. Her husband lovingly documents this incredible journey, which has inspired and touched souls all over the world... I am moved to read, that despite having a day where my friend was largely unconscious, she rouses herself long enough, to sing the Beatles's song, "All You Need is Love," to the roomful of friends that have gathered there, to enfold her in their loving presence... I feel my heart swell, and almost break, for indeed, this simple song tells the greatest truth, and once again I realize, my friend is teaching me how to live, with passion and great abandon, and to acknowledge what is truly important, as she slowly slips away from this life... I also realize, that my friend is not only transmuting all vestiges of her ego into love, as her husband wi

Somewhere Down the Road

The day is bitterly cold and windy, and armed with my ipod, I step into the deep winter morning that cuts like a knife, though the sunlight is shining brightly... I reflect on the fact that at 55, I have reached an age where my friends have started to die... I do not visit the river today, nor tread on its towpath, instead I navigate the walking path that ambles through different sections of my neighborhood, and which I have walked for nearly two decades of my life... I am deeply moved by the process of a friend who is not long for this world. She is truly teaching me how to live on so many levels... I wrestle with profound philosophical and theological questions during my brisk walk in the biting wind, recalling the night of "Faith and Worship," an ecumenical prayer service I attended last evening at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School , where I had chaired the Theology Department for twelve years. I was moved by all of the panelists and their sharing, and most esp

A Kumbhaka Phase of Life

My life and schedule opened up unexpectedly this morning, given to me as a gift, so I made my way down to the river, which I had not visited since last week... The day before yesterday we had an ice storm, so schools were canceled. I tried to go out for a walk, but came back home after nearly killing myself in the process. But today, everything was melting, and the sun was shining through the clouds. I was down at the river a little later than I usually am - some time during the mid-morning, and the river was beautiful. It was warmer, and the sun was peaking through the clouds, and it felt delicious to turn my face towards it and soak in its healing rays. The ice covering the river seem more thin - and overhead I could hear the ice melting off of the trees, dripping onto the partially thawed ice on the grass as well. The air was fresh, and I filled my lungs with it. Overhead, two crows danced from one maple tree to the other, and then settled down. Soon, they were joined by a cacoph

Renunciation, Detachment and Letting Go

I've been thinking a lot about renunciation and detachment, and the process of letting go... Such things are never easy, and I wonder if they are ever fully learned, because they seem to arise as lessons we must re-visit over and over again... I attended a book club this weekend, and the selection chosen was Ram Dass' Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita. I realize now, I was meant to read this book, because of some very specific lessons... I'll start off by saying that I've never been particularly drawn to Ram Dass or his writings, and I only heard him speak once, about six years ago. And while some parts of this book are genuinely dated, and stem from a series of lectures he delivered on the Gita in the seventies, there were still some parts that spoke to me, and to a number of things that I have been reflecting on these last few weeks... So, I have chosen to note some of these passages here. I could write a dissertation on each one of these passages - and on t

More Food for the Soul

There are days you feel lost, perhaps confused, and you might be moving with no sense of direction, and even feeling a lack of purpose... There are times you pray for insights to shake you out of the emotional or spiritual chaos you are experiencing or the perceived turpitude you may be regretting... And the needed insights come, often, from very unexpected places. Perhaps a friend says the right thing or points you in the right direction... Or perhaps, you receive the desired message from a perfect stranger - by simply being in the right place at the right time... Or, maybe you go to a yoga class, like I did today, and your teacher talks about samskaras , imprints that you've created, which leave you feeling like you are stuck in a rut, in more ways than one. And then, all of a sudden you realize, you went to that class to receive the perfect message for you in that moment! I find that many of the greatest insights I now receive, arrive from almost perfect strangers, on Twitt

Food for the Soul

I woke up this morning to a virtual winter wonderland, even though we had a very lean blanket of snow covering the ground. Still, the sun was rising in a cloudless sky, and tree branches were heavy with glistening snow. And the birds, were chirping their little hearts out! And so, I decided to make my way down to the river before meditating - which is really a "no, no" for me. But alas, only workers of the park were allowed in, so I turned back. I guess that is what I get for not meditating first! I taught yoga to a lovely student, working her edge a little more deeply, and then went to see my acupuncturist. She worked on my lungs and my "Earth" element, which she noted, are related to grief. And while I have experienced grief recently on several fronts - involving the loss of friends and so forth, my acupuncturist wisely observed that many of her clients were reacting to the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords , and the others who lost their live

Will You Say Yes - and Open to Grace?

This morning, with warm coffee in tow, after a very early morning meditation as the sun rose, I went down to the river. It seems, it is calling me to visit again, as I have on and off, at various junctures, throughout these last three years... Why do I go to the river? I go for companionship. I tell the river my deepest secrets, and things that lie hidden in my heart, and it listens. The river is unconditional. It does not skirt its lessons. I also go down to the river for insights. The river somehow, always manages to teach me what I must learn. On this day, the river is partially frozen again, and the sky is overcast and gray - very much looking as if it will snow, which is in the forecast for tomorrow. Last week, I visited several times. On some days, the river rushed with great power. One day - it was perfectly still. On a couple of occasions it was nearly frozen over. I marveled at how drastically it changed from one day to another - somehow mirroring my feelings and state of m

Happiness Practices

Here are more suggestions offered from readers of The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin that are conducive to greater happiness in their lives. Perhaps you have your own suggestions to offer? This morning, I read this quote that I posted as my Facebook status. Certainly practicing this would make anyone more happy: "Promise yourself be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble." ~ From the "Optimist Creed" for The Optimist Club And, these suggestions from The Happiness Project: If you can't get out of it, get into it. Keep it simple. Give without limits, give without expectations. React to the situation. Start where you are. People give what they have to give. Be specific about your needs. Let go, let God. If you're not now here, you're nowhere. Play the hand you're dealt. Own less, lo

Thoughts on Happiness and Epiphany

I've been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin . I stumbled upon this book, last fall while I was in Vancouver, and ordered it upon my return, but I am just finding the time now to immerse myself in it. It is a good read, filled with many insights, and I hope to make some further references to this book. For now, I would like to share part of a list the author compiled from what people shared which contributed to their own happiness and well-being. As we begin a New Year and contemplate changes in direction that we may want to make, or set intentions, some of these may resonate. On this day, that is the Feast of the Epiphany , I spent part of my day writing several poems, instead of doing work that I should do, and I offer this first verse of one poem, to honor this process of listening, of giving, and receiving, of changing and setting intentions, that hopefully will bear fruit throughout the year: Epiphany On this Feast of the Epiphany-- When The Magi

The Art and Yoga of Happiness

This morning, I took my coffee down to the river after my meditation. It is still cold, but at least the biting wind of yesterday was absent. I came down to the river yesterday morning as well, as I did nearly every day in January, three years ago. Yesterday, the river raged as it flowed downstream with great power and strength, skirting the frozen river banks. It seemed very much alive to me. But today, it was nearly perfectly still and I could see the trees on the Maryland side reflected on its surface which was calm and without any discernible motion, like a plate of glass. I walked along the frozen river bank, treading carefully, breaking some ice here and there, and maneuvering myself to the area with rock piles, where I sat once, surveying the river, listening to its lessons, until it invited me in. I left that day, and bought a kayak, and the next afternoon, I launched into the river for the first time in my life. I thought about the fragility of life, and the art and yoga of


The New Year has dawned... I sense a shift in the energies... I meditate in the quiet, and silently ask for simple things, so reminiscent of prayers offered during the Winter Solstice : "Let me see what I must see. Let me hear what I must hear. Let me be what I must be. Let me know what I must know. Let me be more compassionate. Let me love more deeply..." On a day that is the Solemnity of Mary , I entrust so many to her care, loved ones, departed ones, and those in need... Paramahansa Yogananda offers this reminder from the first entry for the year in his Spiritual Diary: "With the opening of the New Year, all the closed portals of limitations will be thrown open and I shall move through them to vaster fields, where my worthwhile dreams of life will be fulfilled." I settle down with a cup of coffee to see what my Facebook friends have to say, and I come across this Old English Prayer, that one soul has posted, and it seems a dedication t