Although the pandemic was rolling in already, I remember Friday, March 13th, 2020 as the day it really set in that we were entering into a new time. I had a strong sense that Covid-19 was not going to go away in a few months but rather that it would stay awhile and potentially usher us into a collective dark night. And that if we allowed it, it could transform us in such a way as to move forward from a new place collectively. Even still, I had no idea all the ways we would be stripped and left to face ourselves more deeply. Without minimizing the pain and loss of this past year, I am grateful for the ways it has rocked us out of our business as usual and made way for re-evaluation and re-considering.
Here we are, a year out. Many, including myself, have used the term ‘unprecedented times’ to describe what we are experiencing. Although that may be true for the majority of us who are alive right now, it is not true for humans in general. Humans have been through devastation, disease, plague, awakening, etc. since the beginning. All of which reveal that we have an innate resiliency we can live from both in our own selves and in our connection to our familial and spiritual ancestors.
We are held and supported as we navigate these current challenges and can allow them to be both ‘alchemical’ and ‘initiatory.’ These two words have been in my being quite awhile and I have been hearing others use them as well. They are in our midst and are appropriate as we continue our Lenten journey.
It has also been almost a year since we have been gathering daily for the collective contemplative pauses. . . a space for embodiment, chanting, reflecting, and silence. . . a space that allows us to access our resilience and join in with all who have done so in the past and will do so in the future. We connect in with the practices that humans have come back to when navigating these perhaps ‘precedented’ times. Silence being an essential one.
I recently came across an article by Azriel Re’Shel, called “Science Says Silence is Vital for Our Brains,”reinforcing what I think we all have experienced during our time together in the pauses. Azriel talks about the value of silence not only as comfort and coziness for our exhausted brains and bodies but as a time of regenerating and nurturing mind, body, and soul.
She says “While noise creates stress, silence relieves stress and tension in the brain and body. Silence is replenishing and nourishes our cognitive resources. Noise makes us lose our concentration, cognitive powers and causes decreased motivation and brain functioning (as backed up by research into the effects of noise), but studies show that spending some time in silence can amazingly restore what was lost through exposure to excessive noise. The ancient spiritual masters have known this all along; silence heals, silence takes us deeply into ourselves, and silence balances the body and mind. Now science is saying the same thing.
The healing benefits of nature and stillness are well documented, but now we can add to this quest for health and wellbeing, the nourishment of our brains. The simple yet ancient experience of silence could be just the healing balm we need to quell our crazy modern lifestyle.”
I see these pauses as time together not only for our own individual mind, body, and soul benefit but really working together as part of an immune system in the collective mind, body, and soul. As we engage our practices we offer nourishment and protection to the Whole, just as the immune system does for our individual selves.
I am incredibly grateful for all of you who have joined me in these pauses at whatever level you have been able to even if that means you have not entered the zoom space. They have been steadying and cohering and a way of offering something to the Whole Web of Inter-Being in which we are a crucial and insignificant part of.
We are anchoring and tethering.
We are surrendering and trusting.
We are connecting and inter-abiding.
We are freeing and widening.
We are sensing the invincibility of our hearts.
“A sacred breath radiating Love unifies the divine web of life. Any broken part affects all of Creation.
Awaken, friends, to the Divine Radiance enshrined in the Inner Chapel of your heart; Here your soul reflects the beauty of life offered in service to Love’s Plan. With radical trust, know every need will be amply supplied as you breathe in the harmony with the Cosmic Song! Time spent in the great Silence will serve you well . . . surprising you with deep peace and gentle joy.
Lumen Christi . . . Holy Wisdom.”
— Nan Merrill
You are a temple of mud and soul
just like us an adobe of possibilities
a hollow of love, language and laughter
your body contains at least a liter of sunlight
and stardust radiating from every smile
— Hakim Bellamy
“Here at once is the primary ground and basis of people’s experience of prayer. I am calling it, for the purpose of this discussion, the ‘givenness of God’ as expressed in the hunger of the heart. This is native to personality, and when it becomes part of a person’s conscious focus it is prayer at its best and highest. It is the movement of the heart of a person toward God; a movement that in a sense is within God — God in the heart sharing its life with God the Creator of all Life. The hunger itself is God, calling to God”
— Howard Thurman
Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.
Our friendship is made
of being awake.
The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,
That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.
Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.
'The Body is Like Mary'
The body is like Mary, and each of us has a Jesus inside.
Who is not in labour, holy labour? Every creature is.
See the value of true art, when the earth or a soul is in
the mood to create beauty;
for the witness might then for a moment know, beyond
any doubt, God is really there within,
so innocently drawing life from us with Her umbilical
universe – infinite existence …
though also needing to be born. Yes, God also needs
to be born!
Birth from a hand’s loving touch. Birth from a song,
from a dance, breathing life into this world.
The body is like Mary, and each of us, each of us has
a Christ within.
'When I am Among the Trees'
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
— Mary Oliver