I went to great length on Sunday to plan out my week. It’s the only way I can get the things I want done. I got up as planned and wrote for two hours. Got dressed so I could walk Lucy after I ate. While I was making my smoothie, it splattered all over me and the kitchen. I stood there; you know the way you do when time stands still, and you’re not sure if you want to scream or cry. I remembered how it was when my kids were little, and they’d drop milk on the floor all the time. I came to repeat the quote “That there’s no use in crying over spilled milk.” What’s done is done, and the only thing left to do is clean it up. As I was eating, I remembered a quote I read the other day. “Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” -St Francis de Sales
As I headed out the door to walk Lucy, I ran into my neighbor. She has a one year and is expecting her second child. The baby she’s carrying has some severe problems that will require surgeries as soon as it’s born. She and her husband have a lot of faith, and they’re trusting in God’s will. Instead of going on about herself she wanted to know how I was doing. She is living the words of St. Francis de Sales. She wasn’t going to let anything take her inner peace away, and yet she has every right to feel as if her whole world is upset.
As I proceed to walk on with Lucy, I thought how the unplanned things find a way of eating up our time. My well-planned morning wasn’t going as I’d anticipated. Yet, it’s those unforeseen things that remind us what’s important. That where we find ourselves is often where we’re supposed to be and what matters is being mindful of what those moments have to teach us. It’s in the space between the moments that we catch a glimpse of God. And grace fills us from our head to our toes with its everlasting peace. It’s where we find our caring heart too that makes us want to reach out and ask, what can I do for my neighbor today?
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodron
I love painting pictures with my words. It starts when I’m trying to figure something out. I visualize what I’m thinking in an animated or metaphoric way that helps me make sense of it. So, what is my carpet bag of baggage?
It’s a rug big enough to fit all the stuff I’ve collect along the various journeys of my-life. It’s an ugly carpet, full of untruths, most of them having to do with my self-esteem. It’s all tied together with the black rope of fear. I’m so used to carrying it around that I don’t even feel how much it’s weighing me down most of the time. It’s in those moments when I’m paying attention to life that it falls off my shoulder. It’s a wonderful feeling as if I’ve sucked in some helium and I’m floating right above the ground. And I wonder why it can’t be like this all the time.
When the black rope of fear sees me happy it starts to untie itself around the carpet. Moving like a snake. Fear knows I’m afraid of snakes. It’s the way it gets my attention. As the carpet bag begins to slowly open all the dreadful demeaning voices jump around shouting me, me, me pick me. All it takes is for me to believe one demeaning thought of worthiness, and I’ll find myself standing upon the rug that fear uses, to pull the joy right out from under me.
But I’m seeing a little clearer now. They say, you have to see what needs changed, before you can change it. As the quote says about, “nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” I’m learning one thing for sure, that as big as fear looks, what lies on the other side of it is majestic.
Today I went back to place I lived in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen since the day I ran away in 1968. That’s 50 years ago. It was an institution in Philadelphia called Stenton Child Center. My younger sister and I were supposed to feel fortunate that we were in such a nice place. Most of the places the state provided for abandon children were pretty run down. There is no place on earth that could be better than being with your own family no matter how difficult things are at home.
I didn’t know how I would react when I actually saw it. As we began to approach I felt only a moment panic, that quickly turned to curiosity. I couldn’t believe how much it looked the same after all these years. The memories so fresh in my mind and stories yet to tell. I couldn’t go inside because it’s now a shelter for homeless families, but I was okay with that because I felt like the monster it represented in my mind for so many years no longer had a hold on me.
On my way home I wondered about how this applies to what I wrote about yesterday in relation to place of shifting I find myself. Of all the different places I’ve been, this was by far the worst ground I’d ever worked in my life. But it’s also yielded the most growth in my life. It was a time of planting, growing, and nurturing. It was full of many cultivating opportunities that could have yielded many weeds, but instead continues to teach and bear much fruit.
I am not only in the winter of the season, but nature teaches another lesson in my life, that I am in the winter of my shifting cultivation. A time to rest, re-evaluate, contemplate, let go and chill out on a icebergs going with the rivers flow.
Sometimes life becomes as twisted as a vine. The tighter it wraps itself around one circumstance after the other it becomes hard to breath. Hard to understand. Hard to think. The desperation to reach and cling, and climb brings us to a standstill. In this place of resting we find the breath of life, and clarity begins to set in. We quench our thirst from a drop of the ocean, and we begin to see that we are a part of something much bigger then ourselves. We begin to feel the need for expression going deeper within where we feed on the nourishment we’ve collected along the way. In the process, we become a bud growing within instead of out. The need to express what we are becoming grows ever stronger until in the mist of all our twisted vines what we were created to be burst forth in all our beauty and glory.
We can become who we were created to be if we stop twisting ourselves up knots. If we stop fighting against ourselves and others. If we stop to listen to the voice…not calling in the wind…but the one that comes from within longing to be expressed through…you…and…me.
I think as we journey through life we come to the end of each path wondering how am I going to get from here to there? Sometimes the next journey requires us to walk through valleys or up steep mountains, maybe even across paths of hot coals, or over wobbly bridges, and what about the ones that are paved in stones across the sky. Will, freedom, choice, trust and faith come into play surrounding me, and ego steps into view with its limited human perspective announcing that there is no way on earth to get from here to there. All the while the spirit within waits and watches patiently until will, freedom, choice, trust and faith can finally see past ego and into the depth of their purpose.
We walk through a period of our life being host of our soul. Showing it all there is to be seen through our eyes, senses and emotions much like a tour guide on a trip. But eventually the spirit within the soul becomes bored and tired of seeing the same thing as we circle round the Ring of Kerry over and again. We are at the point of our crossroad and it’s time for the ego to get out of the drivers set and let the spirit take the wheel. The spirit doesn’t’ need the maps or GPS to get us to the next path in life. It tells us now to sit back and enjoy the ride, choice is our ticket, trust is all we can take, will is what pushes us on the bus, and faith is what gives us the courage to take the first step, freedom is the weightlessness we feel as we let go of all the things that hold us back from moving on. As we travel once again around the Ring of Kerry on our way to the next destination we see as if for the first time because now it’s through the eyes of God.
For the 3rd time I’m pulling out these entangled vines in my garden. Every time I think I have all the thick twisted vines pulled, a week or so later they find their way back to the top of the soil. As I stand looking at their fresh green heads poking through the soil I can almost hear them laughing at me, as they say in their wee taunting voice, “we’re back!” I dig deeper with more determination to get to the source of each plant. Hum! I think to myself. There’s something awful familiar about what’s happening here besides the mere fact that I’m pulling these vines out again.
“Okay God, what are you trying to show here?” I say to myself
I’ve been doing the same thing in my own life pulling out the stuff I don’t want anymore, pulling out what isn’t good for me, and pulling out what no longer has a purpose. I do feel much lighter in many ways, but the vines from all that stuff is deeply rooted and intertwined so even when I think I’ve pulled it all, it finds a way back into my life, temping me and trying to sabotage all my efforts. Pulling out the entangled vines feels as if it has a hold of me. It doesn’t want to let go of it.
“What am doing wrong God?”
“It isn’t the vine that has a hold on you. It’s you who won’t let go of the vine.”
Woo! I didn’t see that one coming!
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”
Everything starts from a seed including us. I wonder if we live within that shell all our life with the seed being our soul and our lifetime here on earth being a gathering of all we need to slowly begin the painful process of cracking open. Many of us have felt the harder blows of life that leave an opening so wide that it goes straight to the heart of the soul. Whether our cracks are big or as small as a tiny papercut it is how the light gets in and once we experience the warmth it brings the more our soul craves it. Like our hands reaching upward we begin to sprout moving toward the unknown yet a knowing that it’s the natural process of who and what we were created to do. Yes, there is a comfort in staying within this place we’ve existed, and a fear of being exposed and vulnerable to the unknown. It’s never easy to step outside of our comfort zone to leave behind all that’s been a part of us, but the light continues to pull us toward it, and it is only in the letting go that we can fully begin to blossom in the fullness of the light.
Most importantly let us not forget in the process of breaking free…to ring the bells that still can ring, and forget out perfect offering. Look around there are cracks in everything. It’s how the light gets in.
“What I love most about St Patrick’s Day”
Green is my favorite color
A shot of Baileys is divine
I love corn beef and cabbage
Adding soda bread makes it sublime
A beautiful rainbow to wish upon
A pot of gold would be a great find
But what I love the most is
The lightheartedness of this day
A joke or two
A break away
From the rhetoric and uncertainly of our days
One other thing though
that I have left share
I found a green frog in my underwear.
I read an ancient Chinese story the other day that sounded a lot like the kind of parables Jesus used to teach his lessons.
If you want to trap a monkey, hollow out a cocoanut just big enough for its open hand to reach inside. Place rice in the carved-out fruit, and leave it in the path of the monkey. Sooner or later, a hungry monkey will smell the rice and reach its hand in. But once fisting the rice, its hand will no longer fit back out through the opening. The monkeys that get caught are those who won’t let go of the rice, and as long as the monkey maintains its grip on the rice, it becomes a prisoner of its own making. The trap works because the money’s hunger is the master of its reach.
I’ve been that monkey in many different situations throughout my life. With my hand fisted in the cocoanut I can’t for the life of me figure out why I could reach in, but can’t pull it back out. So, I too have become a prisoner of my own making because I can’t see that what I want the most is holding me back and until I let it go, I won’t be able to see the actual freedom it creates for me.
I keep thinking it has something to do with the story of I’ve been trying to write since I was a teen. And I do feel as if I’m chained to it in a way. No matter how many times I try to let it go the hunger to finish it comes back. So, as I’m thinking of this lesson of the monkey I can’t get the thought out of my mind that maybe it’s trying to tell me something about letting go of this want and desire. Then the clarity comes to me. What lies within my fist are the words of my story and as long as I hold onto them I’ll remain a prisoner of what I actually believe will never be accomplished.
Now I could have never come up with that kind of answer without sieving my thoughts through the spirit of God.