Monday, December 27, 2010

Hope

By: Ayn Rand

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Physics

By: Heather McHugh

When you get down to it, Earth
has our own great ranges
of feeling - Rocky, Smoky, Blue -
and a heart that can melt stones.

The still pools fill with sky,
as if aloof, and we have eyes
for all of this - and more, for Earth's
reminding moon. We too are ruled

by such attractions - spun and swaddled,
rocked and lent a light. We run
our clocks on wheels, our trains
on time. But all the while we want

to love each other endlessly - not only for
a hundred years, not only six feet up and down.
We want the suns and moons of silver
in ourselves, not only counted coins in a cup. The whole

idea of love was not to fall. And neither was
the whole idea of God. We put him well
above ourselves, because we meant,
in time, to measure up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let This Darkness Be A Bell Tower

By:Rainer Maria Rilke

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

By: Mary Oliver

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?
So let us go on

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Growing Up

By: Kyle Elden

This evening my six year old daughter Stella and myself had a delightfully chaotic dinner over at a friend’s house – it was buzzing with the noise and laughter of four children, three adults and a dog. Stella and her little companion played together dressing up in fancy gowns and stuffing billions of dollar bills in a leopard purse, and they were completely rich and full of joy. The older eleven year old girl helped out with the toddler and helped clear the table, helped the little girls pick up their mess when it was time for us to go home, somewhat practicing to be an adult. All this while my friend and I caught up on life discussing the joys and stressors, hopes and disappointments we face as adults. I commented on how great the eleven year old was, so helpful – joked that I could use one of those around to help out with Stella. My friend whispered about how she (the eleven year old) suddenly has begun transitioning from “playing” and we both lamented that time in life when we naturally lose the interest and pull we once had to simply just play, be free spirited, present, and joyful. It reminded me of this poem from Marcus Borg’s book “The Heart of Christianity” so upon coming home and reading a bedtime story to my own little one and tucking her into bed, I had to scurry and find this poem that struck me with such intensity and truth when I first read it. In Borg’s book he introduces this poem as a way to describe how we all tend to journey through life coming away from God almost as a right of passage. He discusses that we come from God and as children we simply, without a doubt, know who we are (as children of God) and are plugged into God, really without much effort. And then we go through a forgetting…..some of us never coming back into relationship, engagement, connection with God again. But it is a pilgrimage, if we so venture toward God again, to come back to that knowing, that deep and profound relationship with God. We move through troubles, trials, tribulations, and triumphs. It takes effort and faith. It takes a new kind of knowledge and understanding to cut through all the layers of our egos and culture and call to live unauthentic lives to get back to the core of who we truly are. This poem, “On Turning Ten” by: Billy Collins, describes this transition so well. However, it ends with a very bleak and desolate tone that leaves me feeling rather hopeless. For myself I know that when I'm in a place that's disconnected from God, this is what life feels like and looks like. And, it pretty much sucks. I think it’s important to acknowledge this journey we all most certainly go through, but to also recognize that it’s not the whole story – for once we remember who we are and where we come from, as adults, we can understand that when we “fall upon the sidewalks of life” we both bleed and shine, all at the same time…..

On Turning Ten
By: Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Becoming Tea

By: Kyle Elden

It is only a red mug
with hot water, and
a tea bag steeping
releasing swirls of color
steam rising
with light
with the easy scent of peppermint
a ritual of lips to cup, and
warmth flows gently
falling down throat
into belly and beyond

If only I should
learn
an act of surrender
like this
so simply settling into
what is
to transform into something
different
something more
unlocked,
released

The Avowal

By: Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World

Summary of Keynote Presentation at the Public Health and Human Services Conference
given by: Harold S. Kushner


By: Kyle Elden

A week ago I attended a conference titled “Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World” and it was an enlightening experience. Harold S. Kushner was the keynote speaker – he is a rabbi and the author of many books, one of which is “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” His keynote address was riveting, thought provoking, and spirit-lifting. His message was about fear - how fear and anxiety often help us because they make us uncomfortable enough to enact necessary change. In a later workshop there was discussion about two kinds of fear, one of which is healthy does exactly this, motivates us to change – to let go of what does not work and try something new. And the other fear is unhealthy and does the opposite; it keeps us stuck and has us clinging to our old ways and resisting necessary change. This reminds me of the Einstein quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Oh but how often we find ourselves insanely and unconsciously re-enacting the same dysfunctional patterns.

Kushner outlined the way in which we can cope with fear and avoid having it take over our lives. First, he stated two truths about the difficult things we face. The first, actions have consequences. Sometimes things are happening to us as a direct result of our thinking, behavior, actions, and choices and we need to be experiencing the consequence so we can learn from and modify ourselves so we don’t continue dysfunctional patterns. The second, not everything is about “me” – sometimes what happens to you is just simply not your fault – there exists bad (or simply selfish and careless) people, bad luck, bad weather and the like.

Additionally, he offered three guiding factors that come directly from Psalm 27 which begins:
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

Kushner identified that we have available to us three things to turn to which can help us cope with fear so it doesn’t take a stronghold on our lives, and that is light, salvation, and strength from God.

When describing light he stated that light can balance darkness, it can make something less frightening. Like a little child afraid of the dark, using a nightlight can make all the difference and enable them to get the rest they need. Therefore, it would behoove us to be mindful about bringing light into our lives, about utilizing the resources within us. Whether a spiritual practice, a hike in nature, laughing with friends, therapy, exercise, or going to church, we can intentionally find ways to bring light into your our lives to counterbalance darkness and distress.

Kushner explains that salvation in the Old Testament does not have the same meaning as in the New Testament, so in this Psalm it is referring to salvation in the form of people coming to our rescue. Often what saves us during difficult times is other people. When we have people in our lives that are there for us, that love us, cherish us, and can hold us we can cope with difficulty and devastation and come out on the other side stronger, more whole, and knowing we are loved. In addition, other people help us feel less alone in what we are facing. How often does it occur that someone presents in our lives that is going through or has been through something similar and leaves us recognizing we aren’t so isolated after all. Whether it’s grief over a difficult loss or feeling bad and ashamed because you’ve made a huge mistake in your life or have hurt another person, it’s likely you are not the only one who’s ever been in this position. We are thus encouraged to be aware of and notice the way in which we are provided for through the people in our lives that are there for us. As a word of advice, Kushner prompted us to fill our lives with people who “cherish you and see you as beautiful” ~ I think that is a good standard to set for who we choose to have in our lives.

An important point he made in the salvation section is that what people fear most is being rejected. He thus gave “rejection advice” as follows:
- Sometimes smart people make mistakes.
- Sometimes smart people get it right even if you don’t like it. It may actually be a blessing/gift (i.e. you never do anyone a favor by staying in or keeping someone in a relationship or a job that isn’t right for them) ~ that person might just know something you aren’t yet aware of about goodness of fit.
- Never let someone else’s opinion determine what you think about yourself.

Finally, Kushner discussed the need for strength from God. He stated we need a special kind of strength to cope with difficulties and the fear associated with that. He describes that God is like a mirror reflecting back to us a great and unconditional love; however, people looking into the mirror see different faces based on their perspectives and personal experiences. He asked the question: what if we could learn to see ourselves in God’s mirror? This is the type of strength we gather from God which helps us see beyond the surface (our fear-based perceptions of ourselves and situations) and recognize our own beauty and worth.

More than being afraid of death, Kushner explains, people are afraid of wasting their lives. Therefore, create a meaningful life where you are cherished and loved and you likewise cherish and love those around you. He tells us to “let people know what they mean to you!” Further, he points out that there is no gravestone that states “Awesome CEO” or “Always Drove a New Car” – so, contemplate what is important in life and where you are investing your time, energy, and resources.

To close he points out that the sentence that is most often spoken in the bible is “fear not” or “don’t be afraid” and although there are valid things to be afraid of and we will endure unavoidable suffering and difficulty as humans, we do have resources within us (light), people around us to reach out to (salvation), and strength from God to help us cope.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh Worry, Worry

By: Kyle Elden

Years ago I was listening to a meditation on audio and this quote, of which there was no identified author I can remember, was read “Worrying is your way of praying for what you don’t want.” This struck me and helped me shift (or at least attempt to) from tending to ruminate over the fearful, the stressful, and the negative. Naturally tending toward worrying and anxiety I now use this quote as a reminder within my own spiritual practice and have invited my yoga students in class as well to contemplate how you can transform that oftentimes gripping and consuming worry into a prayer or an intention for what it is you do want. Further, how can you take that worry and utilize it as helpful information regarding a change or a shift you need to make in your life? This may be related to an external factor – a relationship, responsibility, or obligation or it may be an internal factor – such as thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions about yourself, others, situations and the world around you that just aren’t serving you in finding wholeness, happiness, joy, and grace in your life. So, take the opportunity as worries arise to recognize that you don’t want to pray for something you don’t want, for that would be silly. Instead, be a creator in your life and shift your consciousness to a prayer or intention for what you do want and gather the courage to make the changes and modifications necessary in your life, relationships, and internal landscape to bring about more harmony and guide you onward to your best self.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ode on Intimations of Immortality

By: William Wordsworth

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in entire nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home."


..............................................

I've always found deep solace when reading this
Wordsworth piece. How often it is we forget who
we are and where we come from. How often it is
we dwell in the negative, the fearful, the things
we have no control over. How often we ruminate over
mistakes and failures, imperfections and inadequacies.
But alas, when we take a moment to pause and recognize
what Mr. Wordsworth describes as our true "home" suddenly,
suffering begins to subside and peace begins to take hold.

I remember going to a little hermitage cabin for a silence
retreat and a little placard was sweetly placed on the desk.
It simply stated: Child of God, you are Welcome Here.....
At this time in my life, I had strayed away from knowing,
remembering, and recognizing "home" -- I had been existing
in struggle, facing adversity -- and I cannot tell you
the welcome into loving arms experience I had at that moment.
I dropped my suitcase, began to weep, and peace filled me.
I realized my true "home" and began to laugh at myself
because it was here, ever-present and available to me
all along, I just didn't notice. I now believe that
the only way we separate ourselves from this reality
is though our own lack of awareness and tendency
toward suffering. And the antidote is as simple and
as difficult as remembering.....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Untitled

By: Khalil Gibran

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.

Monday, August 23, 2010

One Journey

By: John O'Donohue

You only get one chance. You have one journey through life; you cannot repeat even one moment or retrace one footstep. It seems that we are meant to inhabit and live everything that comes toward us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

POETRY

By: Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Winds of Change

By: Julia Cameron
Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life

The things that have come into being change continually
~ Augusto Roa Bastos


As we move to embrace new vistas, we are not asked to abandon those we love. As life leads me forward-- to a new job, a new home, a new relationship-- I do not need to close my heart to all that has gone before. My heart is a worthy vessel. It carries riches gained from my living adventures. It carries room enough for other riches to be gathered. I move through life like a trader, bringing gifts to those I meet and leaving their sides enriched by the gifts they bear for me. Life is always bountiful, always adventurous, if I will open my heart to the new lands being offered. As a spiritual sailor, I must lift the sail of faith and allow destiny's wind to move me forward.

~ Today, I welcome the winds of change. Today I cooperate with the new experiences coming to my soul.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Breaking Open

By: Kyle Elden

I’ve been attempting to ask myself these questions each and everyday: am I living in truthfulness, am I embracing my life with a whole heart, do I choose to be honest, daring and brave in the face of difficulty and adversity, and will I graciously notice, appreciate, and accept the gifts from God that are before me? If the answer is no to any of these questions I realize I have, to a greater or lesser degree, pulled the heavy blanket of fear or indolence over my heart, muffling my life’s song – I have closed my eyes to the world and fallen asleep in the midst of a full and vibrant life that is calling me home. Bishop John Shelby Spong, when discussing living a prayerful life, states that prayer is a way of life, not necessarily an act we do from time to time. He urges us to become God intoxicated human beings, to live fully, love wastefully, and to be all that we can be. I strive to be intentional about following this prompt, which to me means to be alive and awake in my life. When I’ve come to a place in my life where I have literally awaken, I’ve discovered that it can often be a grueling and painful process to reach that end. It is through necessary darkness, sorrow, and heartache that I have broken open and become more than I ever would have been had I remained stagnant and stuck where I was.

When we find ourselves asleep in life, when we are depressed, dull and half-alive, it can be difficult to untangle ourselves from the darkness and confusion we are wrapped in, to find that faint pulse of what it is we can become and experience in this lifetime. When we are faced with difficult decisions, when we are holding onto what we need to let go of or taking for granted what we do have, when we cannot bear what it is we know we need to do ~ it is hard to know how to go about the business of life. It’s difficult to know what to do, how to trust ourselves, and how to follow our hearts skillfully and with intelligence.

There is no blueprint, no treasure map perfectly drawn out that will lead us to where it is we need to go to find fulfillment, to become self-actualized, to be whole. There is not a “one size fits all” answer to any of life’s quandaries. What is right for one person may cause immense suffering and sorrow for another. What works well at one time in life may become arduous at another time.

We tend to want to look at things through a black and white lens; we want to see things as either right or wrong. Yogic philosophy approaches life differently, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s about cause and effect. I believe this helps us become more honest with ourselves and others as it allows us room to explore ourselves, our relationships, and our lives to discover the cause of any feeling, experience, or action and the actual impact it has on us, others, and the world around us. And however nice it would be if things just neatly fit into a category of “right” or “wrong” I’ve realized that not much in life is either/or as I so hoped it would be, it’s both/and. When I first gleaned this concept at a yoga workshop led by Deborah Adele, it opened up my world in a radical way. I no longer tried to shove everything into a box of “good” or “bad” and I began to see things more clearly in my own life and self as well as the way in which I perceive and judge others. This has led to much more humility and compassion both toward myself and others as I recognize we all stumble along through this human experience ~ not always as gracefully as it would be “right” to do so.

However much we may come to realize that there truly is no “one size fits all” blueprint for how we should all live our lives, we still seek answers and guidance – and rightfully so. I became interested in theology, namely Christian, and the concept of sin as a way to navigate through life skillfully. While I have found great truth and wonderful guidance in many regards, I’ve also found much disparity. People wax philosophical, argue, debate, and literally go to war over beliefs about “sin!” The truth of the matter is, even within the Christian context, the way the Bible is viewed is not completely black and white. To extremists, the literal interpretation of scripture may be considered an all or nothing approach. However, many communities recognize that cultural analysis is important in understanding how to appropriately follow God’s laws. This is clear because many cultural practices in biblical times are no longer interpreted and understood (by a majority of Christians) to be God’s laws such as polygamy, slavery, and the subordination of women.

Instead of getting so frustrated that I completely threw out the good with the bad, I sought deeper. I wanted to know what, beneath all the dogma, rules, and laws (of which there is much dissonance about), actually defines something as immoral or sinful? Borg and Crossen (2007) state that “human sin consists in abusing or destroying God’s creation—people, places and things, past, present and future” (p. 44). Tolle (2005) explains that “literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence” (p. 9). In this understanding sinning is basically living “unskillfully, blindly, and thus, to suffer and cause suffering” (Tolle, 2005, p. 9). Bishop John Shelby Spong states that “it is not what is good or bad in a cultural form but about what enhances or diminishes life as what is good or evil” (personal communication, March 13, 2009).

These explinations of sin profoundly impacted me. This deeper understanding challenges us to not simply look outside of ourselves at a specific scripture for example and find a one size fits all answer for how to address an issue, but to also look within ourselves and, as the yogis teach, investigate the actual cause and effect. This process requires measuring what is right for a given individual in their special and unique life circumstances though exploring honestly whether any given choice or decision has the actual impact of enhancing or diminishing their life as to whether it is sinful or not.

One dear friend of mine talks about how this is life, here and now, it’s not a dress rehearsal – today is the real thing. How true it is, we don’t get a chance to do it over. So to the best of our ability we shall strive to do it well and hopefully not diminish ourselves and our lives, or others in the process. To the contrary, may we do that which enhances our lives, that which is skillful, intentional, and alleviates suffering that would otherwise be endured.

With these questions I recognize that I don’t want the longings in my heart to be exiled or to be kept secret, like a bird held captive that is thrashing against the metal bars of fear. I want to feel the fluttering of my desire to be fully alive and awake flapping around, lovesick for life’s embrace and know it’s possible at any time to open the door to freedom. Like a baby chick delicately enclosed in its egg shell, the only thing it knows to do is break open, instinctively pecking at the only world it knows, pushing through to something much bigger and brighter than ever imagined. Let us be guided by this baby chick and continue breaking open – to a larger world, to a greater self – throughout our lives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Orange Tiger Lillies

By: Kyle Elden

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive”
~ ee cummings


“People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive”
~ Joseph Campbell


Alongside rotting wood railroad ties
stacked to enclose this garden,
with mostly unruly weeds,
these orange tiger lilies
come every year,
abundant and daring
and continue to open,
as if to say to the world
yes, yes
I am alive.

Unashamed of any longing
or desire,
they ask for what they need
and graciously receive –
sunlight funnels deep into their hearts
and roots reach deep into the dirt,
and oh so dirty,
they call forth water
rising up through their succulent green little stems.

And I tell you they are aglow
as I walk by today, unhurried and aware
happiness heaves into my body,
kneading my spirit like bread dough
it begins to rise, and something,
a great love for life resounds –
my breath a song of praise
rhythmically flowing in and out.

Later, I can only smile
as I cut a russet potato
cooked in olive oil with a dash
of salt and pepper, smile
as I crack eggs and adore
the yellow yokes, smile
as I eat this food in solitude
and look out at the lake
filled with moon light,
and city lights,
and ships with shining lights
and know
this is what it is
to be alive.

Mornings At Blackwater

By: Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finding A Poem

By: Kyle Elden

I have spent the last number of days constructing and composing a wedding ceremony for one of my dearest friends. I will be the officiant for her wedding in less than two weeks. They will be married on an overlook above the majestic Lake Superior. And of course, we want everything to be perfect. She gave me the task of finding a poem, the perfect poem to read at their wedding. I love poetry, especially love poetry; however, amidst all the great writers I am drawn to, Hafiz, Rumi, Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings, and so on, I was struggling to find that perfect poem to read. I spent hours paging through countless poetry books, searching the internet with key words that should've drawn from the multitude of available masterpieces and shining with truth and beauty, that perfect poem should've appeared.....but it didn't. I was beginning to get nervous. What seems such a simple task for me especially, had become a daunting reality. With the wedding only two weeks away now I was fretting about having a wedding ceremony I was responsible for writing, void of the perfect poem. It seemed nearly sacrilegious.

My friend and I discussed this quandary. We laughed about how amidst the countless beautiful love poems, we still hadn't found the "one" and the way in which this search is much like finding the "one" with whom you are meant to spend your entire life with. The poem needed to speak the truth of their journey and relationship, be saturated with the essence of their love, and be universal so all people could relate to and behold the words. In this process I thought about trusting that it would come to us, much in the way we simply need to open our hearts and have faith that that special and unique individual that is perfectly matched for us will arrive when the time is right.

As I was working on their ceremony I was contemplating and writing about the way in which, when we find that person, there is a sense of home in one another that is indescribable yet gently draws you together. In discussing their relationship and journey to one another, this sense of "home" is exactly how they described their love for each other. I recalled that a couple of years back, when I was in an unfulfilling relationship, my writer's group assignment was to write about that sense of "home," and I wrote about the lack of a sense of "home" in my own relationship. It was a poignant time of truth and reflection that helped me recognize the need to move forward in life by making necessary changes to open myself up so I can, someday, have that deep connection with somebody and trust that, even if it seems like it may never happen, it will, in time, when it is right.

And just as I was writing about their love resounding with a sense "home" in their ceremony, I received an e-mail from the bride to be with a poem forwarded to them from a friend of theirs who will be doing another reading during the ceremony. The poem was written by his late wife and he felt this call to send it to them. The moment she read it, the moment I read it, we knew it was the "one" we had been searching for. And like the "one" we end up having as our life partner, should we be so blessed, we realize that it is not something or someone that we have any control over "finding" but rather a gift that is given to us.

I feel honored and privileged to be officiating the wedding of two individuals who truly know home in one another's arms. This is the poem that will be read during the ceremony:

Renie's poem:

I’ve been looking for you everywhere.
In crowds of people I sought your face.
In quiet streets I listened for the sound of your footstep,
knowing that I would recognize it anywhere.

I’ve seen the lights from distant villages at night
and wondered if you were there,
bathed in longing like me,
the spices of the warm air on your skin.

I’ve built houses with my own hands
and hung lace curtains in the windows
with the hope that you would find me,
But it was not our time yet.

I’ve shared food at many tables,
watched families kiss their children goodnight,
then sung praises to the stars while walking home alone.

But now that I’ve found you,
all of that makes sense.
Years and years of wandering
have brought me here
to you.
Driven by our restlessness,
we traveled through the world
to find each other.

And while, around us, the household bustles with life—
children playing,
women laughing at each other’s jokes,
old men drinking tea—
we lie here in each other’s arms
and know we’re home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I Have Learned So Far

By: Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of— indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Blackwater Woods

By: Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go

Under the Waters

By: Madelaine L'Engle

In the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface.....and each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown

Friday, July 2, 2010

Love

By: Rumi

With life as short as a half taken breath, don't plant anything but love

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners

By: Hafiz

We have not come here to take prisoners,
but to surrender ever more deeply
to freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
from anything
that may not strengthen
your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
from anyone likely
to put a sharp knife
into the sacred, tender vision
of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
those aspects of obedience
that stand outside of our house
and shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
come out and play."

For we have not come here to take prisoners
or to confine our wondrous spirits,

but to experience ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom, and
Light!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Great Wedding: A Commitment to Truth

By: Kyle Elden

Throughout our lives we ebb and flow through different experiences of joy and pain as extreme opposites. Naturally, we tend to want to grasp and cling to that which is joyous and avoid that which is painful. Khalil Gibran discusses this dance in “On Pain” from The Prophet. He wisely instructs us that “your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” This prompts us to develop a different relationship with pain and sorrow. To see it not necessarily as something negative, scary, or bad but as a natural part of life that offers us an opportunity to understand and know ourselves more deeply. However, there is something about human nature that has us tremendously fearful of pain, sorrow, and grief. These experiences can be so difficult to bear and uncomfortable we try and avoid them at all costs.

Grief, pain, and sorrow ordinarily arise with changes in life small and large. From a friendship or a significant relationship ending against your desire, to needing to quit your job, to being disappointed, hurt, or betrayed by someone you love, to bearing the brunt of gossip or judgment from others, to suffering an injury, to recognizing that you are unhappy or in distress in a relationship, a job, or a place, to the death of a loved one ~ there is a grieving process that occurs and needs to be fully experienced in order to move on and be whole in your life just as it is. Gibran teaches us that if we truly understood the purpose of pain, “you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” In other words, with a deep knowing and trust in the process of life we would allow ourselves to move through grief in its fullness and embrace our pain as something we need to more fully understand life and know ourselves deeply.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed the Grief Cycle model which outlines the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. These are stages we must go through in order to either accept our loss or embrace a needed transition and therefore, come to terms with our life exactly as it is. How often have we seen others or experienced ourselves being stuck in one of these stages of the grief process? I know I have been stuck in denial, anger, depression on many occasions, I’ve been in a place in a relationship for example, where I am in distress, not happy, and know it’s not working but I keep repressing what is true because I don’t want to face what I truly need to do. In fact, I’ve spent (or possibly wasted) years of my life depressed and stuck due to just this conundrum – being fearful of doing what it is I know I need to do and simply not wanting to go through with it – because it’s hard, because it’s painful. It is difficult to recognize this within ourselves and again Gibran astutely points out to us that “Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.” The remedy is the grief process; it is coming to a place of radical acceptance of what is true, grounded in compassion, love, and tranquility. Much of our suffering comes from our reactions to our experience and not to the actual experience itself. Much of our pain, especially prolonged pain or depression, comes from our own refusal to accept and come to terms with what is. We try to control, change, deny, grasp, and cling to what is not working, to what is no longer true. The yogis teach us that in every moment, every day, every circumstance, every experience we either have the choice to stay constricted and stuck in our circumstances, in our Self - or to respond in a way that offers expansion, growth, and fullness in our lives. Seneca echo’s this sentiment when she proclaims, “It isn’t that we do not dare because things are difficult, but that things are difficult because we do not dare.” We often find ourselves feeling like we can’t do things differently, can’t make that radical change in our lives that our heart calls us to, can’t follow the path we have a deep hunger and longing to follow because it would be too difficult, confusing, and painful whereas it is primarily our inaction, denial, and fear that is causing the difficulty and distress we are experiencing.

The fact of the matter is we all have an inner compass that guides us to right action, that helps us become fully actualized, that allows us to understand and know ourselves more deeply. However, learning how to be in tune with this inner compass, how to follow our hearts in spite of what our culture tells us we “should” do, or dogma teaches us may be the only “right” way, is a difficult quandary to face. I love one of the philosophical yogic adages “culture sucks, spirit pulls.” The truth, no matter how much you may try to deny or repress it, no matter how much you may try to exile that voice that calls to you from deep within, will keep surfacing. It may be a battle between what culture tells you you should do and your spirit pulling you in another direction. Truth sometimes arises as inspiration, a magnetic draw to something or someone, or a spontaneous joy, or it also presents as distress, discomfort, depression, or anxiety. Both sides of truth help us recognize that something needs to change or be followed in order to more fully become ourselves. It may be hard to decipher truth at times. To know truth it may be hard to sift through all the cultural messages, the well meaning advice, the expectations we have of ourselves or the expecations others have of us. Because we want so badly to be accepted and loved we often lie to ourselves and others so that the image we present of ourselves is socially acceptable. However, often the truth of our Self is being squandered and we might have this nagging sense that there is something more we could experience. Whether it be a career that allows us to use our talents and creativity more fully, or a partner that understands us, connects with us, and encourages more growth within us, or a educational or religious path that aligns more with our values, or a new state or country that simply suits us better – we often have a gut, intuitive knowledge about what it is we truly need, about what the truth really is for ourselves.

When we commit to something it helps us be intentional about reaching a goal, allows us to create boundaries which assists us in experiencing something at a deeper level than otherwise possible. For example a commitment to another in relationship or marriage, through this type of agreement between two people, ideally we are able to share a level of intimacy and trust, steadfast love and dependability not possible without such boundaries. When we commit to a job we set boundaries on our time so that we are able to dedicate ourselves to successfully completing the tasks necessary to do well in our work. Commitment is a powerful and necessary process that bonds us to someone or something in order to grow and flourish within that context. But what if you are no longer able to grow or flourish within that commitment? What we commit to at one point in our life, however meaningful, relevant, and true, may not continue to be what we need to be committed to at another point in time. We are not static; we are fluid, ever changing, ever growing beings. It may be that our commitment to a certain job at one point helps us build a knowledge base and experience, helps us become talented in a way that opens a door to another career or educational opportunity that is more true for us at a later point in life. It may be that a long-term relationship with a specific person helped us learn about commitment, communication, and love – that, that particular relationship with that person helped you grow as a partner and know what it is you need and can be in a committed relationship, but realize that this individual is not who you should be with indefinitely as a life partner. Is this a terrible thing? No, it’s a natural part of life. Carl Jung identifies this exact human experience when he asserts “What served us in the morning, no longer serves us in the afternoon, and in the evening is a lie.” This is difficult to come to terms with but poignant. What is true and right for us at one point in life may be wrong for us, may a lie for us if we continue to try and live it out regardless, try to honor a commitment even if it doesn’t serve us any longer. Think about the job where you feel stuck, uninspired, and bored. You most likely aren’t the best employee because you are not engaged and alive in your work, even if you are committed to the job. Think about the relationship wherein you don’t really enjoy being around one another that much, you don’t communicate well or connect, you feel distant and bored. You most likely aren’t the best partner because you aren’t engaged and alive in the relationship, even if you are committed to it. Not honoring a commitment is probably one of the worst things one can be exposed for and it kind of makes one want to crawl under a rock, right back into a place of denial and repression of the truth because, you are definitely judged and looked down upon when you don’t honor a commitment. However, honoring a commitment to something or someone when it’s not working, doesn’t make sense any longer, and isn’t the truth is much like committing yourself to running a marathon and then tearing your ACL but continuing to train and complete the marathon because you committed to it even though it would be foolish to do so. This just leads to further injury, preventing yourself from possibly being able to run a marathon or complete another active endeavor at another point in your life, and more pain and distress.

We will commit ourselves to many things and people in our lives and this is a good and necessary part of living a full and vibrant life. However, sometimes it is our commitments to things, people, jobs, habits, expectations, and priorities that are no longer working for us, are no longer true for us, and no longer serve us that keep us stuck in our lives. Therefore, learning how to tune in to our inner compass, know our truth, and follow our heart, learning how to embrace pain and recognize the need to allow ourselves to move through the grief process in order to make necessary changes in our lives, accept the hand that we have been given, and understand and know ourselves more deeply is paramount. This is the great wedding; it is a commitment to Truth – to giving ourselves permission to be fluid, to be honest, and to be authentic in a culture which works to shove us into a box, to live in accordance with dogma, and to hide from ourselves for fear of being judged, ridiculed, and not accepted. We are unique individuals; there is no one way to live life, no particular formula that every one of us should follow. We need to allow ourselves the space and freedom to be who we truly are. Being married to the truth is the most important of all commitments; it is again the great wedding and the one fight that is actually worth it in the end. I love how e.e. cummings perfectly describes this life-long battle to know yourself and be committed to the truth when he urges us “to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peonies

By: Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open ---
pools of lace,
white and pink ---
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities ---
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Love Goes On

By: Shelia Packa

Love goes on in spite of the quarrels
in spite of the leavings
broken hearts, rejected rites,
discarded love letters, promises never kept.
Love goes on in face of all its failures,
in spite of the betrayals,
reverse in fortunes,
formidable opponents, competing needs.
Love goes on and on
if not above ground
then under, if not under
then through, if not through
then around, if not around,
then over and over and over
if not you, then another, if not
another,then another.
Love goes on
slips out of our grasp,
travels upon the roads,
falls like rain and fills the rivers,
floods and evaporates only to rain
elsewhere.
Love goes on here and
everywhere
beyond the bodies joining, beyond the climax,
the clasp of hand and mouth
and ribs and limbs.
Love is beyond the kiss and the words,
beyond the darkness and sunrise, the births
of new life and fallowness, of winter.
Love is beyond the pain of it,
the disdain of it,
the stain of it,
beyond the seed that falls, before and after
the rain that splits the seed open,
beside the tendril that lifts its small stem,
goes on to leaf and back to seed.
Love is this circle that we're in,
outside, inside, unsayable, unspeakable,
creator and destroyer. Love, love, love
how grief rises
into dark stars.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Moving

By: Kyle Elden

I won't
but want to
send you
a package of white tea
a small white towel
maybe a blank piece of white paper
where a poem could have gone
and a blank CD
where music could have been burned
a parting gift
to say goodbye
to have you remember
and maybe laugh
and to signify
the emptiness
that often comes with
moving on
moving
and it's all about
packing boxes
making space for the new
rearranging
getting rid of
what is no longer needed
or able to be contained
of what cannot be held
letting go
moving
moving forward
to a new place
to unpack the things that remain
and place them with care
neatly, thoughtfully
where they now
belong

Thursday, June 3, 2010

following your heart

By: Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Am Divinely Partnered and Led

By: Julia Cameron
Blessings ~ Prayers and Declarations for a Heartful Life

.........................................................................

There is a place where words are born of silence,
A place where the whispers of the heart arise.


~ Rumi

.........................................................................

I am blessed by the guidance of Spirit in many
forms. I open my heart and my mind to the influence
of higher forces. I relinquish my definition of myself
as small and limited. I invite guidance and inspiration.
I welcome new thoughts and perceptions, larger perspectives
and possibilities. Rather than insist on being the sole
author of my life, I invite the collaborative forces
of the universe. Synchronicity, coincidence, reinforcement,
and serendipity -- these are friendly companions which speak
to me clearly of higher realms. Rather than close my mind to
the possibility of active spiritual intervention in my affairs,
I commit to noticing, noting, and acknowledging the support
which I actually receive. Life is an orchestra. I am at once
a musician, a music, a conductor, a composer, and an audience.
I recognize my multiple roles and I embrace the harmonies of my
accompaniment. I am perfectly, intricately partnered. I count
this partnership a central blessing in my life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And Growth Begins Again

By: Tony Stensland
For Sheila Packa

Soft cotton seeds
Falling silent like dreams
Dancing on waves of air
Everywhere to be

Little thoughts that float
Like dear birds
Whispering, breathing
Lightly toward home

Plant their meaning
In warm and patient ground
Knowing slow growth
Begins in time

Time passes
And hope rises
Rises to the sun
Rises to the sun
Bows to the moon
And rises to the sun

And majesty begins
Taking measures upward
Outward with arms
Of beauty and love

And then releases
Releases beauty and love
In soft seeds of dreams
Finding their way as if known

Thoughts spring thoughts
And growth begins again

I WALK IN PEACE

By: Julia Cameron
Blessings ~ Prayers and Declarations for a Heartful Life

Our vision is beclouded and the pathway of our progress is
obstructed until we come to know that God can and does
express as Good in every person and situation.
~ Ernest Holmes


I walk in peace. Adversity melts away as I remember
the spiritual reality underlying all things. I claim
my right to divine comfort, divine harmony. I release
all apparent discord into the healing care of the
universe, trusting completely in the larger good that is
unfolding. Divine calm centers my heart in its loving
presence. I relax. Remembering I am sourced in divvine
protection, I breathe in contentment and well-being. I
am held in the heart of God. All things work toward
the good. As I embrace my part in a larger and holier
whole, that whole embraces me. This unity is a great
blessing which brings peace and comfort to my heart.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Happens

By: Hafiz

What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.
But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world
To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?
O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Salt

By: Shelia Packa

how long have I been stone?

I align the salt and pepper
between the squares
of black and white at the table
as we separate
watch the geranium at the window
and the ice on the other side
grasp a cup
made from another’s hand
in the basement studio
watch love go
into the salty street
between the black iron fence
and white drifts
the dark
around the street lamp
watch the unknown negotiations
of hot and cold
of the old story and the new

think don’t look back—
like Lot’s wife—

how long have I been stone?

is it love if it can’t dance?
if it’s a system of measurement?

can love be an accident or a vision
or a piece of music
played by angels?

O to be saved by the angels

I climb the back of each string
each note pours a shaft of light
each note starts and stops my life
as I ride upon a light horse
an indigo and graphite and platinum
and leafy and sky horse
ride the sound of rails and nightfall
day break and the body,
the body, the body

one is made of wood
one is made of bone
one is made of light

O to die and live in a house of light

pass through inviolate
turn caution aside

leaving was an act of love
turning, an act of love

was there salt on the angel’s tongue
when she told me to leave?

did she shake the house

trembling the azaleas’ red petals
against the green stems and leaves?

every time I begin,
petals fall or leaves
I am leaving
or I’ve left or one is leaving me
or has left
we are leaving still
the edges brittle
some leaves are dead
some are green

what do you do without
green?

what do you do with your lot?

what do you do without
salt?

how long can you be a stone?

the angel rubs the bow
against the strings to make a fire
sparks fly into the billows of electric
guitar, smoke rises
the cities are burning
she holds the strings down
on the other side
releases them
brings back fire from the ice
shadows come out of the trees
to feed Orion in the sky
she swallows the night
before she rises
the dark and salty night

following

I make my own way with the body
in confusion, in the wilderness
in the place of tangles and shadows
and fallen trees
up the hill
in the crossings
in the place of chairs and tables
on the maples paper
with a pen stroke
in the silence of anger or indifference
in joy
in music
in the cacophony
through the past
in a story among other stories
make my own way

without an axe clear a path
toward the light of angels
leave the vanity
and mirror
for another woman

taste the salt of tears on my face

where we were staying I didn’t want to stay

where we were going I didn’t want to go

look back
don’t look back

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loveroot, Silk Thread

By: Shelia Packa
Duluth's Poet Laureate :)

let me give enough of myself away
let me hold nothing so close
I can not release it.....

like breath that comes into the body
the way water leaves the shore
like love you've spent

the warmth of the shoulder
what softens the face
or gathers behind sorrow

gravity that presses light inside
what doesn't resign in its reaching
but pauses for breath

a deep and awkward question
what is sealed in its tomb
what gains in its diminishing

let me keep nothing back
not the dead
not the broken seed cases
not the torn letters

love breathing in the palm
as I tear at the earth

not the vine
root, relinquished blossom
not the broken pot

shattered mirror
not the stone
not the promise or rose

but give it all, all.....

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Burning Heart

From: Love Poems of Rumi - Deepak Chopra
Translated by: Fereydoun Kia
Edited: Dr Deepak Chopra

My heart is burning with love
All can see this flame
My heart is pulsing with passion
like waves on an ocean

my friends have become strangers
and I’m surrounded by enemies
But I’m free as the wind
no longer hurt by those who reproach me

I’m at home wherever I am
And in the room of lovers
I can see with closed eyes
the beauty that dances

Behind the veils
intoxicated with love
I too dance the rhythm
of this moving world

I have lost my senses
in my world of lovers

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Song for the Angels

By: Great Lake Swimmers

The echo to your yell
The ripple to your dive
The currents under your wave

Electricity
Flows through me
I send it out to you
We were charged
With the founding poles
Of a million years
A million years
Before us
Have trembled in their fears

Never saw you never heard you
But i knew that you where there
Everywhere
I could feel you all around me

I know that i am just a grain of sand
Meeting water at the land
We could make our castles here
And sweep them all away

I know that i am just a drop of water
Frozen into ice on the stormy earth
Who gave us birth
Over and over in cycles
Lovely cycles

Never saw you never heard you
But i knew that you were there
Everywhere
I could feel you all around me

Never saw you never heard you
But i knew that you were there
Everywhere
I could feel you all around me

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blueprint

By: Kyle Elden

The blueprint was astounding
the potential incredulous
they stared for days at the sleek white paper,
at the meticulously drawn lines
of what could be

They fooled themselves
with all the right materials
stacked neatly next to the
beautifully constructed design
stocked aside the prospect
of something great
and even though they knew
this land was ridden
with boulders and jagged rocks, knew
this place was not suitable to build
she laid down her precious pearls
and he his precious stones
and they began construction

And so it goes
everything raised
all that was resurrected
every nail used to hold together
this possible masterpiece
crumbled against the rocky foundation
nothing took root

Now this place is ruins
wood and cement and debris
timidly heaped and broken on the ground
and it is no surprise that what was
sacred that was given
as an offering in exchange for hope
is now shattered fragments, broken pieces,
crushed precious material
underneath the rubble of what could have been
for all along they knew,
they knew it would not stand here,
not in this way

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Buddhist Chants His Epitaph

By: Dan Berrigan

To have, to hold
is all the rage-
Turn a blank page
let go, let go.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Human Soul

Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sadie

By: Joanna Newsom
(lyrics)

Sadie
White coat
You carry me home
And bury this bone
And take this pinecone

Bury this bone
To gnaw on it later, gnawing on the telephone
And 'till then, we pray and suspend
The notion that these lives do never end

And all day long we talk about mercy
Lead me to water Lord, I sure am thirsty
Down in the ditch where I nearly served you
Up in the clouds where he almost heard you

And all that we built
And all that we breathed
And all that we spilt
Or pulled up like weeds
Is piled up in back
And it burns irrevocably

And we spoke up in turns
'Till the silence crept over me

And bless you
And I deeply do
No longer resolute
Oh, and I call to you

But the water got so cold
And you do lose
What you don't hold

This is an old song
These are old blues
And this is not my tune
But it's mine to use
And the seabirds
Where the fear once grew
Will flock with a fury
And they will bury
What'd come for you

And down where I darn with the milk-eyed mender
You and I, and a love so tender
Stretched-on the hoop where I stitch-this addage
"Bless our house and its heart so savage."

And all that I want
And all that I need
And all that I got
Is scattered like seed
And all that I knew
Is moving away from me

And all that I know
Is blowing like tumbleweed

And the mealy worms
In the brine will burn
In a salty pyre
Among the fauns and ferns

And the love we hold
And the love we spurn
Will never grow cold
Oh, only taciturn

And I'll tell you tomorrow
Oh Sadie, go on home now
And bless those who've sickened below
And bless us who have chosen so

And all that I got
And all that I need
I tie in a knot
And I lay at your feet
And I have not forgot
But a silence crept over me

So dig up your bone
Exhume your pinecone, Sadie

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Ponds

By: Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them --

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided --
and that one wears an orange blight --
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away --
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Untitled

By: Dzogchen Tantra

As a bee seeks nectar from
all kinds of flowers
seek teachings everywhere.

Like a deer that finds a quiet
place to graze
seek seclusion to digest all
that you have gathered.

Like a mad one beyond all
limits go where you please and
live like a lion completely free
of all fear.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Now I Become Myself

By: May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leaving

By: Kyle Elden

When people leave us
they are never really gone

They come back
sometimes in dreams
in thick folds of sleep
between soft silken sheets of night
here, once again you see their face
illuminated with moonlight
their voice calls out to you
tenderly and with love
and you are both laughing
because here,
you have not lost one another

They come back in a song,
or a poem, in a place you once were
together, or a thing, a nod of a head,
a curve of a spine, the color of a car
driving by, a smell, the way the snow
falls, or sunlight ricochets through a room

They come back like the dark
oiled mark of a finger print forever,
this person that you love comes back
in your thoughts when things become
quiet and no one else is around
and the distance could not be greater
but you feel them near, they never fully
leave when they are gone they don’t take
away the way their spirit touched yours
rearranged, reconstructed, chipped away
and helped form who you are today

When people leave us
we are not a ghost town
vacant, broken down, void of life
we are a museum of flesh touched
and touching one another
floor boards worn differently because
of the way they walked across to greet
you and hold you and love you
and yes, maybe even hurt you
even if just in the leaving
and in the way they always stay

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Untitled

By: Sara Davidson

Blue lilies grow endlessly in my womb
The same spot where a light was born

Trickling through rocky valleys
Of lust and love

Wavering the reality of life
And home.

My favorite memories of a young brown eyed girl
With prayers mustered out of a thick gut

Trusting God to lead me the right way
Through raw bones and dust

A rocky reality to the big life where friends play
'dress up' in a mirage of neon marques.

A lucid reminder that God does hear every prayer
And is in control of what ever this gift is.

Ahh...sigh...
The bleak reminder that we are all weak
Stone dried
Lying in this barren field

A land where children ask,
"How much longer?"
and husbands stroke dusty guitar stings.

Lights are blue
Lights are green
Lights are out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Sense of Humor

By: Kyle Elden

In this nursing home
my grandmother’s new home
there are the wanderers and the lost
strolling around in wheelchairs
and walkers, waiting to die

This woman is talking to us now
in her motorized wheelchair
she drives around with a vengeance
like a Harley Davidson motorcycle
still full of fire and life
she has no legs
and brown teeth
and a urine bag protruding
from her blue, worn t-shirt
she tells us of adventures
on the DTA
and how she leaves everyday
to visit friends or take care
of her son-of-a-bitch ex-husband
who lives at Tri Towers

Another woman
sits in her wheelchair
frail and lanky,
wild white hair disheveled
blank stare
cradling a naked baby doll
with a stained cloth abdomen
and red crusted lipstick or nail polish
or who knows what, along the tiny
plastic lips of her child,
my grandma asks her “sweetheart,
where’s your baby’s clothes?”
and then whispers to us that
the old coot doesn’t
ever say a word,
but today she stops my daughter
and tells her she has a pretty dress,
a beautiful dress
when we walk away Stella asks
me why the baby has a bloody mouth
and I begin laughing, tears rolling down
my face and hug my sweet little one
although its not really funny
this cycle of life and death
this sour smell of sterility and old people

but seriousness and sorrow
become too heavy for me in that moment
and with laughter they leave me like a
flock of white doves taking flight
and I begin to breathe easier
see the grace in the strangeness
of these people dying awkwardly and too slowly
and remember God has a sense of humor too

Broken Open

By: Kyle Elden

It’s all right if we don’t agree, the long shadows of dusk still
spill across our faces, the sun dipping away into another evening

It’s all right if our love isn’t neatly packaged, sitting on a shelf to admire
beautifully wrapped in crisp cellophane, glistening in department store
manufactured light, making you wish that you could have it

It’s all right if we’ve searched each others faces endlessly,
locked eyes, traveled across the rocky terrain of time together
holding hands, but no longer know home in one another’s arms

It’s all right if after the blizzard settles, and I am in love
with someone else – I sit in a car heat blasting,
enveloped in music, heart broken open – staring through a kaleidoscope
of brown wiry tree branches and blue sky – sun bursting open after days of darkness and the smoke of exhaust rises as an offering of gratitude to God

It’s all right if a decision isn’t made, if uncertainty hangs
like branches still full of frozen rust colored apples that never made the fall

It’s all right if longing spills forth like a driver on black ice who has lost control
and the car slides toward on-coming traffic, spinning down
hill, around sharp corner, banging into guardrail, coming to a halting stop
and somehow emerging unharmed, shaking with gratitude and shocked into
slowing down and paying attention to what it is the heart truly desires

It’s all right if things are messy when the company arrives
if things brake and you cannot find the glue
if the door is locked and on a ring of many, you don’t possess the right key

It’s all right if perfection is in what appears to be broken
if God’s design is somehow greater than what we could
fathom from our perspective, but is beautiful and right
despite the sharp edges of pain and the diamond
which lays in the piles of dirt
we so badly want to sweep under the rug

Friday, February 19, 2010

from Preface to Leaves of Grass

By: Walt Whitman

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Perfection

By: Kyle Elden

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

I only wanted to be perfect
I only wanted to be good

But
The long scar of mistakes
Travels across my body
Curving against my skin
Splaying open my humanness
Cutting across my despair

I only wanted you to be perfect
I only wanted you to be good

But
You have carved out deep places
In the people you have touched
And left some pain
To pool there
In the wake of your journey

We all only want for things the be perfect
We all only want for things to be good

But
Experience humbles us
We fall to our knees, scraped and bloody
Forehead against the ground of
Expectations and dreams, actions and choices
That don’t measure up

And we know nothing is wholly perfect
And we know nothing is wholly good

So
We learn to withhold judgment and hatred
Those dark demons that anchor us in the muck of fear and disgust
And forgiveness rises like a giant sun shedding light on everything
Until new life unfurls green tendrils and buds and the brightest
Colored and perfect blossoms imaginable

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some Kiss We Want

In Honor of the Month of LOVE BY: RUMI

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of

spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At

night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its

face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language- door and

open the love window. The moon
won't use the door, only the window.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Paradoxical Commandments

**found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Soul Waking Up

By: Hafiz

“What is laughter? What is laughter?
It is God waking up! Oh, it is God waking up!
It is the sun poking it's sweet head out
From behind a cloud
You have been carrying too long,
Veiling your eyes and heart.

It is light breaking ground for structure
That is your real body - called Truth.

It is happiness applauding itself and then taking flight
To embrace everyone and everything in this world.

Laughter is the polestar
Held in the sky by our Beloved,
Who eternally says,

"Yes, dear ones, come this way,
Come this way towards Me and Love!

Come with your tender mouths moving
And your beautiful tongues conducting songs
And with your movements - your magic movements
Of hands and feet and glands and cells - Dancing!

Know that to God's Eye,
All is a Wondrous Language,
And Music - such exquisite , wild Music!"

Oh what is laughter, Hafiz?
What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?

It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

God's Fertile Field

By: Julia Cameron
Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life

.........................

You must do the thing
you think you cannot do.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

.........................

Optimism in the face of uncertainty is a difficult art. The terrain of life is varied and mysterious. I cannot always see the path ahead. At times my view is shadowed by doubt, constricted by fear. The open vistas of optimism are closed to me. In such shortsighted times, I must practice the discipline of positive attitudes. I must consciously choose to expect a benevolent future despite my shaken faith. Grounded in the routine of each day's unfolding business, I must act in alignment with my coming good. This means I say "yes" to opportunities for new adventures and acquaintances to enter my life. I say "yes" to unexpected doors opening. Rather than cling to my known life, I allow that life to alter and expand. I choose to take positive risk. I step out in faith despite my misgivings.

.........................

~ Today, I open my mind and heart to the new vistas before me. I embrace and accept unfolding possibilities. I am a fertile field available for God's planting.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Grace Intoxicated Contemplations #1: Tenacity

By: Kyle Elden

I awoke this morning with the phrase, "God is still speaking," a United Church of Christ statement of faith, swirling around in my head. I am moving through a great transition in my life and have been navigating this change for over a year now. In many ways this has been one of the most difficult and challenging years of my life. I've been confronted with a complex array of new and difficult to bear emotions, situations, and circumstances. Yet somehow, in this dark place that often feels confusing and terrifying - that tilts me toward fear and keeps me feeling constricted and stagnant in my life, I have felt and heard God speaking. Nearly all religious and spiritual traditions teach us that God is always available to us and ever present if we would only open ourselves up to that relationship, if we would only do the work we need to do to remove the dams in our lives (our poor habits, negative thought perceptions, and dysfunctional patterns that cause suffering, constriction, and stagnation) that block us from experiencing what some coin as "God-consciousness" or, as was stated in a church service I attended last night, living out our lives in the same way that Christ did. The bible urges us in Luke 11:9 "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." The hard thing at times is how to actually go about this venture; how to ask and knock correctly so that we are truly opening ourselves up to be in relationship with God in an authentic and transformational way.

For the most part, as humans we desire to live out our lives in the way which is for the highest good for ourselves, those we are in relationship with, and the world around us. We just don't always quite know how to do this. Stephen Cope, psychologist and scholar in residence at the Kripalu Center, teaches that we are spiritual beings on a human path and that we are really not that great at being skillful humans. Clearly we suffer and cause suffering, even to those we love. Cope believes that enlightenment (and I would venture to say God-consciousness or living like Christ)is not an unattainable state of being only acquired by monks who cut themselves off from the world and meditate or by those individuals who dedicate their lives to only serving God, such as nuns. To the contrary, enlightenment (God-consciousness or living like Christ) occurs on the front lines of being human in relationship with other humans, learning how to live skillfully so we don't cause harm, and learning how to bear anything that we face. We are spiritual beings, we are one with God. Luke 17:20-21 outlines this clearly "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." We just forget who we are in this myopic stance and perspective we dwell in as human beings.
As humans we go to holy books, churches, psychics, healers, tarot readers, palm readers, temple, spiritual retreats, meditation, and on, and on, and on to find guidance, to learn how to bear the difficult things we face in our lives. We need direction and we can definitely experience profound healing and transformation in the context of a church or through the guidance of holy and sacramental scripture. However, sometimes even these avenues come from a place wherein we are grasping externally, seeking for answers outside of ourselves. In a way we sort of try to excuse ourselves from the responsibility to attend to our own lives. I think a danger in this is that we can get so caught up in convention, dogma, what society or friends or our spiritual community thinks we "should" do to be "right" that we don't necessarily go straight to the source. If the kingdom of God is within us we can utilize our church community, meditation, prayer, our therapist, or whatever practice or avenue that guides us and helps align us with God and that which is for the highest good in any situation; however, I think it's crucial to always go within and listen deeply to what God is saying, right here, right now in the present moment. And we might find that the "truth" we are best suited to live out might be contrary to all the well-meaning advice, dogma, and conventional prompts.

I am in no way an expert on this, nor do I always go to the source, listen deeply, and make choices or act from a place that is aligned with God. In fact, I've found myself often over this past year (and just generally in life) acting from a place of fear, selfishness, control, grasping for things to be something different than they presently are because it feels too overwhelming to bear, or doing what will make other people happy but actually causes me distress. Yet amidst all my stumbling in life I've felt God speaking to me, gently guiding me onward. Sometimes I ignore, push down and set aside that which is my soul's truth, my inner compass guiding me toward wholeness and fullness - the kingdom of God within if you will. The mystical poet Rumi tells us "when you do something from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." I believe our purpose in life is to remember who we are, to know that we are one with God and that the kingdom of God is within us. Our journey is one toward wholeness and self-actualization. And God is still speaking. I have had many experiences that validate this truth and they aren't always conventional. Yet, deep within myself, when they occur there is a deep resonance and peace ~ all of a sudden, without drama, I know the truth, I know what it is I need to do, and I muster the courage and strength to make tough decisions and go through what may be the most difficult thing imaginable, yet on the other side I am more alive and whole than I ever would have been.

Joseph Campbell states that "people say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive." Many of us are asleep in our lives and I think that it is though refining our listening ears to hear God's voice directing us we can become awake, alive and be in that enlightened, god-conscious, or Christ-like existence. This is often tenacious and requires great courage because we might be doing that which is counter-cultural or unconventional. This reminds me of the Anais Nin quote "and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." The alternative to this is much more painful and leads to continued suffering, constriction, and stagnation - and we all intimately know what this feels like. I will end with a quote by Sonia Choquette I just stumbled upon today that resonates deeply with me currently and has helped me rectify my deep inner listening, "tenacity is when you follow your heart -- when the whole world is screaming to get back into your head."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Soul Mate

By: Elizabeth Gilbert

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to Have an Open Heart

By: Kyle Elden

These perfect rocks
nearly fused to the sand
with ice
in this somehow open
space on the beach
where, for whatever
reason, the snow didn’t
stay

It looks like someone
strategically placed them
where they are:
the smooth black one
is there next to the small
white agate which is
in between the piece
of driftwood, some sticks
and the one with purple
and gray speckles

All winter long they stay
right where they are
with open hearts
even though the
whole world appears
to be frozen

Ending

By: Kyle Elden

Outside
it is only one
degree
steam rises off the lake
as cold settles in
against the
remnants of warmth
from
other seasons

you might not
think
it’s hard
to hold a once vibrant
but now dead rose
in your hand,
and lay it down
to rest
with all the red
sucked out to brown
and shriveled,
peaked
in this darkest
time of year

you might think
it’s easy
to understand
that all things die
and we must let go
that at the end of every road
there is still something
beyond

It is not

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happiness

By: Raymond Carver

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Field

By: Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense

Wild Geese

*****This is my absolute favorite Mary Oliver poem. When I saw her read this in Duluth it made me weep...

By: Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Encounter

By: Alison Luterman

We met naked on the sun deck by the
clothing-optional hot springs,
and I saw the long scar
like a smile across his furred abdomen
where they'd cut the cancer out of him.
He trained people in death and dying,
he told me;
divorced, he'd recently discovered poetry.

We talked as if my loose breasts
were not flopping companionably
against the knee I hugged to my chest.
Sunlight pooled on the wooden deck
like soup -- sun soup. A woman did yoga
by the railing, her slender arms
assailing heaven.

I confessed that I am afraid to die
with poems left unsaid inside me,
and he said, "You will.
You'll die with a great poem in your heart
that will never see paper."

We were quiet then. A bee buzzed
perilously close to my sweaty thigh,
and I heard it: I heard
the danger and sweetness inside everything.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trust In A Greater Plan

By: Catherine Marshall

Often God shuts a door in our face, and then subsequently opens the door through which we need to go

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Journey

By: Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Man Watching

By: Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Joy and Sorrow

By: Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.