delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

Grief is not a feeling

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“Grief’s not how you feel. Grief’s what you do. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief, as a skill of life, is the skill of being able to praise, or love, life. Which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief, and the praise of life, side by side, the honored guests…and they’re toasting you. Grief…and the ability to love life…they’re clinking their glasses and toasting the living. So here’s to your health. Until the time comes we come to get you…live well!”

~ Stephen Jenkinson, Griefwalker

I came across this beautiful and moving quote  while recently watching Tim Wilson’s documentary film entitled Griefwalker, about Stephen Jenkinson, a Harvard-trained theologian and former program director of palliative care at a major Canadian hospital, who has made it his life’s mission, “to change the way that we die.” He says that, “The crucible of making human beings, is death.” That we haven’t fully lived until we’ve experienced and fully embraced death…including our own. I highly recommend taking the time to view the film…which you can see here.

It’s quite thought-provoking…that grief is really a gift. Perhaps the last gift that we receive from someone we love, and lose…but quite possibly the most precious gift that we’ll ever receive…if we’re open to it..if we become skillful at it, as Jenkinson suggests we must. It can enlarge our lives…if we pay close attention…not shrinking from it…but fully embracing it. Grief can teach us to live well.

Written by Jim

October 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Disappearing act

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The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell

you; don’t go back to sleep. You must

ask for what you really want; don’t go

back to sleep. People are going back and

forth across the doorsill where the two

worlds meet. The door is round and

open; don’t go back to sleep.

~ Rumi

Early this cold March morning…I witnessed something extraordinary. It was still somewhat dark outside, so I poured myself a cup of coffee, put on my jacket, and went out onto the porch to sit…and to wait for the sunrise. Lately, I’ve been trying to get more comfortable with the night…with darkness…with the unknown. In his book, Healing Night, Rubin Naiman opines that we’ve been turning back the night…extending our days well into the darkness with artificial light, and the glow of artificial entertainment in our living rooms. We’ve become seriously out of touch with night consciousness,  and with the spiritual insights and solace our dreams can provide. It’s an intriguing thought…that our dreams could be another form of consciousness…no less important than the time we spend awake in the real world…and that while we’re asleep…we may be much closer to our true selves than during our waking hours. So…Rumi implores us upon awakening, that we don’t go back to sleep as we arise and enter into our waking day…that we stay fully awake, not walking in our sleep, and not forgetting who we really are. 

I sat in the quiet stillness of this morning…looking up at the morning star…Venus shining bright in the southeastern sky. Over the course of a few minutes…the light from the Sun began to overtake the darkness…and Venus began to fade out of existence…until it was completely gone from what was now a deep indigo blue sky, with soft pink striations of clouds appearing out of nothingness.

It set me to thinking…what exactly is real? Venus…and all the planets and stars that were visible an hour ago…were still up there…merely hidden by this illusion that we call day…photons from our nearby star colliding with dust particles and water vapor suspended high in the atmosphere.

In the beginning, the light shone out of the darkness. Maybe we do need to re-familiarize ourselves with the night…with the darkness…to begin to make a conscious attempt to be more respectful of the night…of night consciousness…of the vast worlds held in its embrace…deep within its primordial stillness.

Written by Jim

March 23, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Symbiosis

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A very cold, windy morning. The wind is one of my favorite sounds. It’s the closest thing I can think of that approximates the Spirit of God…at least as I can conceive of  it. It’s all about relationship. If it weren’t for the nearby pines…I wouldn’t be aware of the wind…just air moving from an area of high pressure to low. But when it intermingles with the pine needles…it begins a conversation…a symbiotic relationship. The presence of one makes known…and asserts…acknowledges…the presence of the other.

I recently heard something that had never occurred to me…and something that amazed me.  That light…is not made manifest until it falls on some object. It can travel through the blackness of space…hidden…undetected…until it interacts with some other part of creation. Again…a relationship.

Early this afternoon, I noticed some shadows moving across the grass outside my front window. When I looked out…there were several black vultures soaring on the wind…making the most of a free ride. Not looking for easy prey below…but appearing to be just enjoying the miraculous gift of gliding about through the sunny sky…in a joyful relationship with the  wind out of the west.

That must be what love is…a relationship that is an affirmation of the other. Something that requires the presence…of the other. Whether it’s the wind flowing over and through the pines…or the bird gliding effortlessly upon an unseen gift from above…or the beam of an invisible energy that finds substance in that upon which it falls. Love needs an object for its affection. So…is that why we’re here in the first place?

Written by Jim

January 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Witness

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Hanging on the wall near my front door, is a poem by Mary Oliver…The Summer Day.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

My eyes are getting dry and blurry at times…probably a natural result of the aging process. But, every time I read the last few lines of this poem, for some reason…tears come to my eyes. Probably, a rebuke of how lightly we tend to take this miracle of life…this ‘one wild and precious life’ that we’ve been given.  But, as I go out the door with my tear-moistened eyes…everything is crystal clear…and it’s always a shock to see how beautiful the world is as it lies before my eyes. Every dew drop…every leaf fluttering in the wind…the crystalline blue sky.  Nothing focuses the mind as much as pain and suffering…and loss. Perhaps it is a gift of some sort…a gift that we do not fully understand.

It’s been especially apparent on this spectacularly beautiful autumn day, here in the Carolinas. I’ve spent a greater part of the day sitting on the front porch, taking it all in. What makes a sweet gum a sweet gum…an oak, an oak…a dark green mysterious juniper, a juniper. I hear the wind rushing through short-  and long-leafed pines…the sound of a distant surf…or the cascading flow of a phantom waterfall. I see ladybugs flitting about…feral chickens grazing on the grass…a wren belting out its song from the trees…the call of a red-shouldered hawk soaring somewhere above…dragonflies…yellow-jackets…phoebes…crows. The list goes on…profligate beauty and being…all in this one, tiny corner of the universe.

Sometimes I think that our main purpose here on earth is to be a witness. A witness to creation. We all like to share our insights and experiences with others. It must be a real need. Hence, our books…and our blogs. This creation is much too special to go unnoticed. Someone needs to pay attention…to witness.  Perhaps we are created because the Creator also has a need to share this…and to not let it go unnoticed. Perhaps we are the universe…reflexively looking back upon itself…and seeing that it is good. Very good.

Written by Jim

November 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

It doesn’t have to be

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It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver, Praying

Coming across this poem by Mary Oliver, I was reminded that…It doesn’t have to be the blue iris that draws my attention…and humbles me before the handiwork of the Beloved. It doesn’t have to be the spectacular vision for which we’re always searching…the glorious sunset…the snow-capped mountain range.  All of creation…even the very simplest of things…can be a beckoning that invites us into intimate conversation with mystery.

Written by Jim

June 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

Voice from the past

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It’s an interesting thought I had been mulling over lately…that we already may have experienced the thing we fear most in life. Death…or non-being, to be exact.  But that’s the catch…you can’t really experience non-being. None of us have. In reality, when you think about it…death may not even exist.

Lately, I’ve been hearing familiar voices from the past…resurfacing back into my consciousness. One of these voices belonged to Alan Watts, a philosopher and writer who helped popularize Eastern philosophies. This evening, I was playing with the new Google Now search application on my iPhone (I never cease to be amazed at where technology is taking us)…and spoke a command into the phone, “Show me some videos by Alan Watts.” After just a few seconds of virtual whirring…the following YouTube video popped up on the screen and started playing.  A synchronicity…that strangely echoed back to me what I had been musing on the last few days. I was somewhat dumbfounded…and listened to it several times.

Written by Jim

May 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm

A blessing

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Life has its ebbs and flows.  A blessing…for all of you who need one. And we all do…

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ
The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you

~ John Rutter, A Gaelic Blessing

Written by Jim

June 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm