A Prayer in Spring

I admit it, I’m hooked on Facebook.  Once upon a time, it worried me, that addiction, but now it’s been long enough that it’s not an addiction.  Hey, I could quit anytime!!  Facebook is a way to keep in touch with friends all over the world.  It’s also an excellent venue for reading between the lines and sharpening my perception of what’s really going on with old friends.  But again, I digress.

This morning, I slept in, and my lovely husband brought me a cup of tea when I woke up, and I said “So what’s new?”

“The grass is growing, the birds are chirping, the Westies are rolling around and playing and having a wonderful time.  Let’s not read the news today.  Let’s just enjoy our own reality.”

And it’s true, of course, there is so much more going on that what we read in the media, and none of it is considered newsworthy.  But we can live in a world where the horror of dishonesty and lies mounts daily, and worry about what is going to happen to this country, and we really should, at least sometimes, at least long enough to write our letters and make our donations…but we should also look up into the trees, look down to see the tulips coming up, accept the enthusiastic kisses that come our way (our Westie Ollie is a champion at this), and feel the joy in the Spring Air.  God is right here, as near as our jugular vein.

In the midst of all this, I did habitually tune into Facebook, and one of my personal heros, Dad Rather, was right with us synchronistically:

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. – Robert Frost

Even as we speak, the bees hum, the flowers bloom, and the birds take flight. Our precious world is fragile, however, and I hope we learn a lesson from this horrific virus that we must take science more seriously.

The same voices that called the coronavirus a hoax and told us we had nothing to worry about say the same thing about our climate crisis. But we know better, and we need to do everything we can to protect our Earth, the only home we have, so that future generations can marvel in the bounty and beauty of spring.

I know these are dark days. I feel the tragedy heavy on the heart. But let us also find the light and peace that can come with hope. Courage. I’ll see you again soon. – Dan Rather

My beloved teacher Pir Vilayat used to say that we ought to work to perceive that which transpires behind that which appears.  That which transpires is all aound us.  Let’s go with that.  I thank God for those who undertake to uplift us, to hold us in hope and reality.  I love you.

How May I Serve?

In a position of utter desolation, when [wo]man cannot express her/himself in positive action, when one’s only achievement may consist in enduring one’s sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position [wo]man can, through loving contemplation of the image s/he carries of the beloved, achieve fulfillment. – Viktor E. Frankl (edited for gender inclusiveness)

Most of us are sitting around at home, trying to figure out how not to kill our partners (and, I’m sure, alternately enjoying them), and I am no different.  In fact, I am going through a major adjustment, because my husband lost his job prior to our own state “lockdown,” and while it’s certainly an adjustment having him home all the time, I am so thankful, ugly as the situation was.  My husband was working as a hospice chaplain and traveling across ten counties, going into homes and nursing homes where people are ill, and he would have had to continue doing that, but now he doesn’t have to.  At his age, we are considering moving toward early retirement, and we think we can pull it off, although that may be wishful thinking.  But I digress.

How may I serve?  Awhile back, I wrote a little piece on the topic of exactly that,  for an Indian e-zine, focusing on the difference between action and contemplation.  It must be around here somewhere, if I find it, I’ll post it on the “Papers” page.  I well remember sitting in front of my dearest father, friend and life’s teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and hearing him speak of, for instance, rishis in the Himalayas, who spend their lives in solitude and meditation, and who have a huge impact on the affairs of the world, serving as few of us are able to serve in our active lives.  I have found myself in a position to emulate them to some degree, although even when one is ill and living a fairly solitary life, there is always something to draw one into one’s very own self-constructed rat race…and so it goes.

Still.  How I think I can serve is in focusing on my daily meditations, being quiet and praying.  I find that there are many who attend my meditations, and I am well aware of them arriving right on time every day (even when I am not), although I mostly can’t see them.  This is spoken of by the contemplatives of all mystical traditions:  we don’t know how many souls we are upholding by the power of our meditation, and we need to remember that.  Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan says that the reason for trying to meditate at the same time every day is because then the souls who want to be there will know to be there at that time.  I wish I could reference these thoughts, but they are, by now, such a part of me that they are mine, treasures given me long ago.

So at this time, this is how I serve.  I don’t get to see a published survey showing whether it works or not, but I can only assume that, given the condition of my own soul, which is linked inextricably with all souls, that it is a good thing to do.

Join me.  I love you.

The Universal Thump

Sulamith Wulfing

This morning, my beloved younger daughter, who is an academic librarian in Connecticut–right next door to one of the worst sections of the country for COVID-19–said that she had had a dream that her father had died and she was driving South to be with me.  She seemed pretty upset about the dream, and of course we all worry about each other, but I was reminded of some studies I’d read about earlier in my life, studies about the kinds of dreams pregnant women have, terrible dreams of having a baby that is disfigured or terribly ill…and in fact, these studies showed that women who had those dreams (are there any of us who haven’t?) tended to have shorter labors and easier birthing experiences.  It seems that these horrific dreams help us to cope with our fears, in some way.  So I told my daughter about that, and I think it helped some…

It often seems to me that the happiest people have the greatest fears.  My daughter is among these, because she is in love, looking forward to marriage, and she loves her job and her family.  She is afraid of losing it all!  Life can certainly be horrifying, but what can we do but live it and hope for the best?

I have noticed, over many years, that somehow things do tend to work out, but I also notice that they certainly don’t seem to for everyone…or do they?  It is all in the perspective, perhaps.  What can we learn from this?  The conservatives among us would say that if our lives are not optimum–if we are poor or otherwise lacking–it is because we deserve what we get.  They, of course, deserve all their money and good fortune, because they are, in some way, among the righteous.  To my way of thinking, this is leftover dreck from the Judeo-Christian era that is connected with those religions in their organized forms.  In fact, it seems to me that it is very possibly quite the opposite.  We are all getting our share of the “universal thump,” that term coined by Herman Melville, and it is, perhaps, our belief, our perception of it that is really important.

Meanwhile, the Ouroborous continues in  its eternal circle, eating its own tail endlessly….

Let us side with the angels.  They too have their flaws, but we have much to learn from them.

Where Shall We Live Today?

Tulips under a gray sky

Is the Spring coming?” he said.  “What is it like?” . . .

“It is the sun shining on the rain, and the rain falling on the sunshine” . . .

–Frances Hodgson Burnett

Every day, I ask the God of my understanding, “how can I serve?”  We are all isolated from each other at this point, and I am in a high-risk category for the Coronavirus, being both “of a certain age” and immune-compromised already, so here I am, me and my Mac, and it occurs to me that I can at least start paying attentinon to my blog, which despite my neglect of the last year or so, means a lot to me.  How may I serve, I ask myself, and it seems that at this time, just to reach out is the best way to serve.  Generally, I have no idea who reads my blog–well, I have some idea, but not much–but once a teacher of mine said to me “Amidha, you see things that few people ever see in their lifetime, and someday some lonely soul will read your words and feel that somehow, they have been understood, and they will not be so lonely.”  I’m lonely too, of course; I think loneliness is what allows us to see, and further,  I think loneliness is the inevitable condition of those who take “the road less traveled,” and the price that is paid for one’s sight…

I got up early this morning and walked out on my back porch.  My Westies were already out, playing, rolling in the grass, experiencing the joy that is available to all of us when we can get past our fear…and they galloped up onto the porch, barking joyously, and made a fuss over me (how can anyone be lonely with a well-loved dog at their side?) and the air smelt sweet and the grass needs mowed, and tulips are starting to pop up, and all this proves that despite everything, life goes on.  I look back at history, and think of World War II, as a for instance:  people not knowing, when they went to bed, whether they would wake up the next morning.  And it has always been thus.  I think that in the US, we are rather spoiled, and these last years have given us the chance to find out where we really stand, and at the same time, to not have a leg to stand on.  A devastating oxymoron!  But we can make whatever we choose of it all:  we can let it break us, or we can let it make us great.  And after all, what is life as we know it?  A dream in the mind of the Beloved.

I have a vague understanding of a quantum reality that encompasses many worlds existing simultaneously, worlds in which we have multiple existences…and then beyond all that, the worlds through which we came in order to reach this existence on the earth plane, which some believe is the farthest reach of  incarnation.  I am not of a scientific mind, so that is the best way I can evoke these memories I carry.

Where shall we live today?  There must be somewhere we’re not all running scared from some plague.  Or even better, there must be somewhere fear has been overcome in the face of inevitable joy.

#686: Irish Franciscan Monk & Poet Richard Hendrick on Coping with The Pandemic

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing

https://shrinkrapradio.com/686-irish-franciscan-monk-poet-richard-hendrick-on-coping-with-the-pandemic/

The End of But Another Era

The Tower

Teach me to go to this country beyond words and beyond names. Teach me not to pray on this side of the frontier, here where the woods are.

I need to be led by you. I need my heart to be moved by you. I need my soul to be made clean by your prayer. I need my will to be made strong by you. I need the world to be saved and changed by you. I need you for all those who suffer, who are in prison, in danger, in sorrow. I need you for all the crazy people. I need your healing hands to work always in my life. I need you to take me, as your Son a healer, a comforter, a savior. I need you to name the dead. I need you to help the dying cross their particular river. I need you for myself whether I live or die. I need to be your monk and your son. It is necessary. Amen.” –  Thomas Merton

Places, words, poems, books, films, paintings, all evoke memories of the worlds through which the soul passes on its way to incarnation.  They become my best friends and I never become tired of them.  Sometimes when I begin an entry here, I have to do a search to find out whether I will repeat myself if I share a quote like the one above, and I am indeed repeating myself, in this case.  Yet:  “It bears repeating,” as the saying goes, and it speaks to our current miseries.  Have you ever noticed how some writers write for the ages, not just the times they live in?  They may not realize it at the time, but I suppose we always hope that if we are feeling ignored and discounted in the present,  somewhere, somehow, someone in the future will see what we have been or said–in one way or another–and be healed by it.

So here we stand, with the opportunity to be united in our misery.  Have you seen the video of Italians singing together, standing on their balconies?  What a way to keep that social distance we keep hearing about!  And what an example to set.  (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/16/kind-triumph-spirit-locked-down-italians-singing-balconies-inspire-hope-across-world)

Here in the States, we hoard toilet paper and queue up to buy whatever we can lay our hands on, rather than considering that someone else might need it.  At the same time, we worry about our loved ones, and try to think about our neighbors who might need us to do whatever we can do for them.  What does this Pandemic mean?  It is nothing new, although we Americans seem to think that it is, and that we don’t deserve it, but history belies this attitude, and we must try to learn from it.

Meanwhile, we have put a mentally ill, angry toddler in the White House (or SOMEONE did!) and we are trying to bear up under that terrible mistake.  What does this mean?

The above miseries, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg:  climate change, wars, much more is happening, regardless of what is transpiring behind it.  Lewellyn Vaughn-Lee speaks eloquently–if sometimes darkly–of this:  we are caught at the end of one era and the beginning of another, as he speaks of in his book Darkening of the Light:  Witnessing the End of an Era.

But in this moment of darkness, in this winter solstice, when it seems we have missed every opportunity, life is recreating itself anew.We are a part of life, part of this recreation, this realignment, even if our attention is completely distracted, even if our way of life is an agent of terrible destruction and desecration, exterminating species as it pollutes the inner and outer worlds.We are both spirit and matter, and along with all of creation we are being reborn.Distracted by the images on our televisions, computer screens and now smart phones, we might not know this for generations.We are so busy, we do not have time to witness what is really happening.There is so little light left it is hard to see, the noise of our daily life is so loud it is difficult to hear.But the cycles of life and the cosmos, the seasons of the soul and the world soul, continue.And the ancient promises are always kept, the promises between heaven and Earth, the promises that give us real hope and meaning, the promises that our souls can hear, even if our senses and our minds cannot. – Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee

I look outside my window and see our beloved friends, the cardinals, gratefully enjoying each other and the food that we leave for them.  The White Crabapple is blooming, and my Japanese Cherry is blossoming amazingly as it grows out of its babyhood…and it IS growing.  It IS becoming.  Again and again it returns.  My protective army of Ents sways in the breeze, shoulder to shoulder, knowing exactly where it stands.  My Westies frolic in the sunshine.  My belongings WILL become dusty within moments are they are dusted, and what shows the continuance of time better than this?

Endings, beginnings, they never cease.

This is what I know:  there is something, someOne I am in love with.  I don’t know where It is, I don’t know what It looks like.  I have gone beyond the images of my spiritual infancy, and I only know that I will gladly live or die for what I can’t see…but am more in love with as the world soul evolves…for it is evolving.

The Sun

Matewan

We watched one of our favorite films tonight, John Sayles’ Matewan (1987). I happen to have been raised in a coal mining town in West Virginia not far from there, and I listened to my Dad tell stories about his days in the coal mines during the depression, when he road a bike from Wisconsin to West Virginia looking for work. Those were the days when the unions were starting to get hold in that impoverished world–impoverished because of those very same wealthy old white men who have turned the state into Trump country today. We still have some of my dad’s old pay slips from pre-and-post John L. Lewis when his pay almost doubled from a few bucks a week to a few more, and the coal company store took it all back.

Coal isn’t king anymore. Why does Trump want to put the workers back into the mines where so many have and will die of black lung disease? Why are they so determined to take the tops off those beautiful mountains? I grew up in Little Switzerland.

Anyway, if you can get hold of the film, you should see it.