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
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


By: Rumi

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