You may have noticed the blessing at the end of the weekly emails as of late. Many of you now know that it goes with a body prayer of four gestures. In times of disorder, disorientation, chaos, and shifting paradigms, it is important to be able to have words and practices which can provide a ballast and some stability rooted in Something of great heft and substantiality. This Something must be outside of circumstance, beyond time and what is to come, and is beyond our usual way of seeing. I would like to share more fully about the significance of each of the words that accompany the gestures. You may find your own meaning in them but I offer you this.
‘May you be anchored and tethered.’ We can be anchored, tethered to ‘mystical hope’ and to the ‘mercy of God.’ The work of Cynthia Bourgeault gives great depth to these two substances. Mystical hope is about not being tied to a desired outcome but rather able to draw from an inner wellspring, to remain connected to the One who is always Present to us, to experience a lightness of being regardless of what is happening. The mercy of God can also be recognized as God’s warm-heartedness, a fierce bonding love, compassion, forgiveness; God’s inner most being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love; an electromagnetic field of love, a vast gentle wideness, a wholeness of love from which nothing can ever possibly be lost; the great weaver collecting and binding the scattered and broken parts of our lives in a tapestry of Divine Love.
‘May you be surrendered and trusting.’ Surrender and trust are what we practice when we practice centering prayer. This practice begins to suffuse our lives throughout each day. It imprints in our physiology the path of kenosis or non-clinging that Jesus laid out for us. We do not cling to what we suppose life ought to be like. We let life come and we let it go. Non-clinging does not mean passively allowing life to happen but rather opens us up to be able to more fully participate in its unfolding. Surrender requires trust, trusting in a benevolent universe that we have a place in. Trusting that what we do is simultaneously insignificant and very important. We have a responsibility to engage without clinging and to trust the help always surrounding us and supporting coherence to emerge.
‘May you be connected and inter-abiding.’ We are always connected, whether we recognize it in any given moment or not. We cannot be outside of God, for in God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It’s all God, the whole thing, and we can never fall out of it. Jesus revealed that he is in the Father/Mother, and we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in us (John 14:11). There is an inter-abiding making it difficult for us to find where we end and God begins. We can remember this and begin to recognize this reality in our own heart that is not wholly other than God’s Heart.
‘May you be freeing and widening.’ We learn to be more free to allow the fruits of the spirit to move through us and into the world. We are free to see and to know that we operate from more than this horizontal realm. We participate in an ever reciprocal Divine exchange. We are enlarged and become wide so that we live from wholeness, from an undivided heart through singleness as Jesus showed us. Whatever we do from that wholeness whether it is saying yes or saying no, can emerge from fullness for fullness. Rather than from divided-ness reinforcing divided-ness.
‘May you trust the invincibility of your own heart.’ Our hearts are capable of great wisdom and paradox. We are not as fragile as we may at times feel. Our hearts can be present to great suffering and great love in equal measure. Our hearts can stretch and break and generate and heal and nourish. How can we continue to be healing balm? Givers of nourishment to the world and all beings? Through collected heart presence we do not acquiesce in detached disengagement, but rather live into these questions without jumping too quickly to answer them.
May we be anchored and tethered.
May we be surrendered and trusting.
May we be connected and inter-abiding.
May we be free and wide.
May we trust the invincibility of our heart.
Here are most of the readings from the ‘collective contemplative pauses’ this week:
“Spiritual life is not mental life, it is not thought alone. Nor is it of course, a life of sensation, life of feeling — ‘feeling’ and experiencing the things of the spirit, and the things of God.
Nor does the spiritual life exclude thought and feeling. It needs both. It is not just a life concentrated at the ‘high point’ of the soul, a life from which the mind and the imagination and the body are excluded. If it were so, few people could lead it. And again, if that were the spiritual life, it would not be a life at all. If a [person] is to live, [the person] must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit. Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith.” — Thomas Merton
‘The Thing Is’
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
— Ellen Bass
“God coinheres, interpenetrates everything, the ocean-in-drop and drop-in-ocean constantly exchanging in a dance of endless fecundity. God is not the ‘author’ of creation, removed and overarching: the whole thing is God. There is not a single place in all creation where God is not, because God is creation itself, endlessly outpouring, endlessly receiving itself back.” — Cynthia Bourgeault
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.” — Etsy Hillesum
Brush your teeth.
Our sickness is greater
than we let ourselves think,
our wound more profound.
But so is our love.
Our grief and even despair
are the work of the Spirit in us.
Let your flesh feel your rage,
your voice find your sorrow.
Let the river flow.
We are not called to end the winter
but to bear the light
that will become the spring.
The road is long.
The Suffering One walks with us,
bearing something. Come along.
The mending of the world
is threaded with simple
kindness and courage.
Attend to the small miracles.
Even as the cold descends
we can love. We can love.
— Steve Garnaas-Holmes