Swimming in a Sea of Sacred Stuff

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

Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Man Watching,” Trans. Robert Bly

IMG_2953I guess the planet, Mother Earth, is saying that it is time for us all to dive in and deepen our journeys. This is a time of great spiritual expansion. So much going on. So much light, love, and connection being shared upon the globe. Perhaps it is the balance to the many other things taking place where energies which are not creative, loving, or constructive are dominating attention. Many of us, however, are choosing to focus elsewhere.

I have two friends who, like me, felt called to start a women’s group – delving deeper into expansion, providing a sacred space for each other to share life journeys and amplify the sacred Feminine. I call this “soul support.” We all need it so much at this time (I know I do). How are you bringing or magnifying the love and light that is needed?

The Circle of Grandmothers and the net of light (netoflight.org) are quietly capturing attention and bringing the support of the sacred to those who feel they need additional support and clarity. Magic is happening where the Grandmothers are working with groups and individuals to anchor the net of spiritual light and love for our planet. I call on the Grandmothers many times each day.

My forays into the woods, the mountains, and the mystical right now are so rich. I’m hearing from others that this is the same for them. Growth, connection to the Sacred and to Mother Earth seem to be accelerating.

In my life, it has also been a time of grief and transition. Others are also opening to their own grief (both old and fresh), and learning how to let it rise to the surface, hold it, observe it, and hear what it may have to say to them. The journey is a deepening one and very expansive – connecting us to all beings. (This article by Jack Kornfield is lovely.)

IMG_3012Solstice has just passed and we are heading toward the full Buck Moon (or Thunder Moon). In August, a total eclipse of the sun is attracting solar tourists and driving prices for lodging way up due to the number of people who want the “best seat” for this event.

Each of these occurrences serves to remind us of greater forces all around us. Perhaps their message is to look up and out, or dive deeper – beyond the hubbub of distractions to what is greater than we are. Look beyond what is clambering all around you to see the cosmic backdrop, the sacred sea stretching out beyond the horizon. As a trusted guide recently said to me, “Pay attention.” The Sacred is right in front of us if we just open our eyes to see.

Let’s dive in together,
Karen

Learning how to shine in dark times

“The world today is challenging and life so confusing that sometimes you feel overwhelmed by its seeming craziness. This is the Kali Yuga; you are living through the depth of negativity foretold in scripture thousands of years ago. It is true that you are living in difficult times, and… it is also true that you signed up for these times. You signed up because you wanted to serve the light. You wanted to perform work of great value
and so your being alive at this time is no accident.

You were called to earth to hold light steady in an unsteady world. You answered the call. And once you responded to the call, there was nothing more for you to do.
From The Circle of Grandmothers, netoflight.org, “December 12, 2016 Newsletter”

Circle of Light“You were called to earth to hold light steady in an unsteady world.” That task is both awe-inspiring and a daunting. Right? It is so easy, these days, to be swept into reacting, into darkness instead of holding steady and radiating light. I react every time I open my Twitter feed and read the latest news in the world of politics. Ugh. I allow myself to indulge in this for a limited period of time – and some days not at all. If I am feeling depleted, it is far better if I focus on what I love and the beauty I am surrounded by, and try to be of some help to my fellow humans on this planet.

Most days, though, a primary reason for allowing myself to RT on Twitter and voice my daily opinion, is to be of support to those who are out there doing the hard work of keeping a close eye on things – investigating, planning strategies, and basically seeking Truth and justice. I’m not one who is called to be on the front lines of that process these days, but I do my small part to say “thank you” to those who are so called.

Pasque FlowerI’ve been loving my spiritual path as it unfolds lately – lots of light has been streaming through – gathering “sisters” in a circle at my home, venturing out to meditate with mindful Buddhists, drumming Kirtan-style down near Denver, playing with profound, wise and crazy grandkids, reflecting and hiking (soaking in earth energy) with my soul mate and chatting with soul friends. When I am engaged in this way, it feels like I’m doing my bit to channel the Light.

Some reassuring words from the Circle of Grandmothers state, “As soon as you said ‘Yes’ to us, you became an instrument for light. So now, at every moment, light and love are flooding through you. Unfortunately sometimes you become so distracted by the drama surrounding you that you lose awareness of this. But the truth is, you are channeling light – you are always channeling light. Even when you feel tired, discouraged, and lost, you aren’t really lost. As soon as you answered, ‘Yes,’ we stepped in to fill you, to guide and direct you, so that now you are never alone. Never! We are as close to you as your breath.” (From The Circle of Grandmothers, Sharon McErlane, netoflight.org, “December 12, 2016 Newsletter”)

I love this reminder. Our connection to the universal powers-that-be is greater than the strength of the earthly ones who seek to spread darkness. Thank goodness. The forces of Love and Light uphold us always – whether we can see or feel them or not.

And so I’m giving thanks today for earthly sisters and brothers, near and far – you are each bright lights as you anchor your point on the net of light. Thank you for being out there! Love you.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

“My love is on the high seas”

On a quiet evening at the beginning of May,
When the bat was in the skies,
I heard a tearful young maiden

Singing beneath the shadow of the green branches…”
– “
Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain,”
as arranged by Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever & Iain MacDonald

img_2209Julie Fowlis performs a traditional Gaelic tune about being parted, lost love, fear, grief, and joy. It has a magical, mystical quality to it.

My daughter, a mom, visual artist and illustrator (who is often at home caring for her daughters as her partner – and true love – travels), was inspired. She collaborated with Julie to create this video – “Tha mo ghaol air àird a’ chuain” or “My love is on the high seas.”

img_2203I love the air of mysteriousness and both the fear and love of this woman set side-by-side. It captures the longing we feel when our hearts are reaching out to what is most dear for us…but still we can’t quite “touch” it. Finally, the love and longing manifest into reality – from darkness, joy emerges. Her true love touches her hand and the spells of grief and longing are broken at last. Joyful reunion begins.

Life is like that sometimes and we treasure the miracles that are beyond words. These are the tales that only music and art can help us to capture and even then only partially.

img_2206Most of us know the feeling. Some reunions we experience in full now, others we still long and wait for – holding vigil in our hearts. But hope continues. We can feel the presence and connection that love provides in life and beyond. We know the truth: though we can’t always see it, love abides and lives.

Hope you enjoy it. Share it if you do!

(Shared with permission of Julie Fowlis and Courtney O’Connell Carlson.)
“Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain” English/Gaelic Lyrics and information

Courtney O’Connell Carlson illustration website

Starting Fresh

Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
– 
Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179

Hildegard-mandalaIn some spiritual traditions, there is a time of reflection that precedes the start of spring. In the Christian tradition, it is linked to Lent and Easter – the time of wandering in the desert – facing our dark side – and resurrection. In rituals surrounding the new and full moon, many people use the Full Moon as a time to acknowledge and let go of behaviors or beliefs which no longer serve our best interest. The New Moon is a time to invite in new behaviors, beliefs, or manifestations which we are ready now to embrace.

For me, one obstacle that often gets in my way is my attitude toward myself – in the spring or any other time. Do you know what I mean?

I let so many things interfere with a loving relationship with myself. For instance, I:

…think it is my job to take care of and give love to everyone else before I tend to Me;
…haven’t yet forgiven myself for hurting others or making mistakes in my life;
…am self-conscious because I am poignantly aware of my flaws;
…think that it is my job to make the toxic people who have hurt me feel okay, too;
…believe that if I’m not perfect, that makes me bad;
…essentially, drive myself nuts.

This is all such craziness brought on by the self (small “s”). My higher Self knows that I need to:

…love myself first (fill the inner well), so that I have some inner resources to share when I choose to do so;
…love myself, forgive myself, have compassion for myself – treat myself as I would treat my very best friend;
…get over thinking so much about the little self, the ego-driven self. Who really cares about my flaws? Only me. (And if someone does care about them… Oh well. That’s their deal.)
…love myself by setting boundaries and saying, “No” to those who are toxic to my spirit and soul – lovingly, but firmly, and without guilt;
…get over perfectionism. Who wants to be around a perfect person anyway? Not me. I want real, nitty, gritty friends and neighbors who have been through the mill, down through the dark valley, and back again; who laugh at their flaws, struggle, and have compassion for the journey. It can be rough! And if we don’t have a sense of humor and humility, we will end up bitter, brittle, and broken.
…give ourselves a break, with the help of God/Goddess, the Universe, friends, our spiritual guides and helpers.

So here’s what I’m doing this spring. I’m soaking in the Love. Try it! Take some time to absorb beauty, to allow love (from you, others, the Universe, God, Spirit) to permeate your molecules, to feel connection with Nature, to soak in the tub and release toxins, and begin to open to something new. Allow the wind of spirit to blow through your soul and clear out all of those dark, cobwebby corners. Then, open to new beginnings – whatever that means to you. Seek soul support. Share your light wherever you go. And allow the Sacred to tend those tender seeds and sprouts and bring new growth.

A Tribute to Mr. Botz

I woke up this morning, rolled out of bed and got into the shower. To my surprise, I found myself singing, “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” This amused and amazed me. I did not know I still knew those words. Then I found that I could sing an entire medley from the musical, Oklahoma. Wow. The brain is an amazing mechanism, isn’t it?

Later, this caused me to muse a bit about Mr. Botz, my high school music teacher. I often think about my English teacher, Mrs. Garding, who basically taught me everything I know. But my music teacher, I hadn’t thought of in a while.

Mr. Botz didn’t fit the typical high school teacher profile. Where other teachers, for the most part, attempted to be fun and humorous – or at least oddly witty (in a demonstration that they were smarter than we were) – Mr. Botz was instead a strict and serious military guy. He was a disciplinarian. But his classes were large – Band and Choir. Everyone wanted to be in Choir, an elective with no homework. I was a Choir member. By then, I’d gone downhill enough FullSizeRender (32).jpgto quit the clarinet, so no band for me, but I still had enough presence of mind to sing in the choir.

We were unruly. Some days, someone in class would say (before Mr. Botz arrived – he saved his entrance for the last moment), “Okay, today let’s really pay attention and surprise him!” We would all agree and would have every intention to follow through, but then, one thing led to another and we would be our usual mass attention deficit crowd. Mr. Botz’ blood pressure would visibly rise as the level of distraction rose.

When I took my granddaughters to Fiddler on the Roof last fall, I noticed that I knew almost all of the words to that score – another medley taught to us by Mr. Botz. How he got all of that music, each of the parts, and extensive lyrics into our unruly heads, I will never know.

I was an import into this small, rural Minnesota high school. I had come from the colorful diversity of Palo Alto on the West Coast to join this all-white, nearly all Roman Catholic school . My family and I always felt a bit on the outside of the tight-knit community because we were most definitely Protestant. But on Christmas eve, by virtue of my Choir membership, I got to have a glimpse of the local culture thanks to Mr. Botz. This public school choir sang every year at Midnight Mass at the local parish. High up in the choir loftfullsizerender-33, Mr. Botz’ unruly charges became well-behaved and attention-filled. We loved this ritual. I honestly don’t remember anything about the Mass, except for the candle-filled sanctuary and the beauty of the space.

My other redeeming activity with Mr. Botz was the Color Guard. We were the all-female crew that marched in front of the band on hot, steamy summer days. Mr. Botz’ penchant for order and military precision was in full swing there, and it was really something to behold. Getting us bleary-eyed teenagers to stand at attention and march in formation on the football field was quite an extraordinary achievement. It wasn’t like he had a massive student body from which to choose the motivated students or those with some aptitude for this stuff. My graduating class had 126 kids in it. We, the color guard, were also the partiers (or some of us were). We were mostly people who weren’t interested in or didn’t have the skills for cheerleading, had lost interest in playing an instrument, but we could show up and hold a flag or a wooden rifle and march around the field. We lived in small towns scattered all around the rural area and it was something to do on a Saturday morning.

On parade days, the band and color guard had black wool uniforms. This was back before the time of supportive moms with spray bottles and ice water. We marched when it was ninety degrees and ninety percent humidity through small town streets. And Mr. Botz marched with us. What a guy.

fullsizerender-12Though our behavior in class was consistently bad, and defied Mr. Botz’ sense of decorum, we secretly loved and admired his rigid sense of right and wrong, his quiet dignity and unforgettable presence. In our senior year, we were shocked and grief stricken to learn that he had died of a sudden heart attack. His daughter was just a year or two older than we were. The entire school attended his funeral.

We were in collective grief for the remainder of the year. A new, kindly teacher was found, but the excitement had definitely gone from our choir. Life without the commanding leadership of Mr. Botz would never be quite the same.

So, though I don’t have cause to think of him often these days, some 42 years later, when a catchy show tune, obscure Christmas carol or little-known majestic hymn pops into my head, I know who to thank. Thanks, Mr. Botz. You taught us well.

Tips on Sanity in an Insane World

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

– William Wordsworth

These are largely “notes to myself” or my gratitude list. What helps me today after I do my morning scan through Twitter and Facebook and digest headlines? I’m curious, too, what is helping you? Let’s share our wisdom!

Things that help me:

  • Decaf coffee & tea.
  • Balanced diet (boring, I know, but of great benefit. Very grounding. Includes dark chocolate.)
  • Exercise! Walking outside or yoga or even the treadmill at the gym, in a pinch.
  • Reading books with perspective and humor (vs. social media.) (Just read “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson very slowly. Good for several laughs a day.)
  • Babysitting a 5 year old, or hanging out with 10 and 12 year olds – keeps one in the present in a demanding and different sort of way. 🙂
  • Knowing that I’m signed up for an all day meditation workshop in Boulder in a few
    weeks with one of my favorite teachers – holds the prospect of being fully centered for a whole day!
  • Writing.
  • Talking with trusted friends about something – anything – that means something other than politics. Helps get the heart center tuned up and moving in the right direction.
  • Laughing.
  • Anything that helps to let go of compulsive activity, even for a few hours. I hosted a family birthday party a week ago and that put me in a great mood – channeling creativity for a full day. hoosier-pass
  • Singing or listening to music.
  • Short road trip deeper into nature. REALLY fun around here.
  • Knowing I’ve done some small thing to be connected to the larger group of people making a positive difference in the world – even if it is just posting joyful art on social media. It makes me smile…and one or two others, also.
  • It may be unhealthy, but I vent my frustrations on Twitter. I live in an isolated area and I have my tiny little rant-of-the-day via reposts that gets it (frustration) all out of my system, sort of. As long as I move on to the list above for the remains of the day. There’s probably a better method for this…do let me know….

Would truly love to hear your list! Send via comments!

Love & blessings, Karen

Back to Basics: Who do we stand with?

“Speak for those who cannot speak;
seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.”
– Proverbs 31:8 (ISV)

interfaith-symbols

Everybody has their point of reference – a family, a community from which they discover their perspective. Sometimes we stay the same as our original family or group; other times, our perspectives are reactions against the way we’ve been raised; and sometimes we take what our families have given us and put our own spin on it. For the most part, I’m in the latter category. (Image source: http://www.peacemonger.org)

Lately, the world has been dividing itself into categories. So, who do you identify with? What categories do you fall in? Mine are:

+ Progressive Christian
+ Interfaith spirituality/eclectic Universalist beliefs
+ According to a conservative definition, I think I fall into the “hippie” category (which is somewhat hilarious – a truly boring hippie)
+ Feminist (prayerfully, peacefully, lovingly)
+ Nature lover/environmentalist (with some realism, some idealism)
+ Celebrate diverse humanity – I believe we are better humans when we embrace lots of differences – racial diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity, diverse expressions of gender and sexual preferences, diversity of body size/shape, religious diversity and so on and so forth….

I could go on, but you get the picture. So, when certain groups are targeted and under fire, who do you stand up with and for?  What kind of oppression and persecution gets you so riled up that you get off your couch and march/make a phone call/write a letter/join a group?

As a long-time person of faith, a progressive Christian minister, the go-to phrases that come to mind during times of crisis are well known: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Judeo-Christian tradition is filled with reminders to never oppress, always to welcome “foreigners” or strangers, because we were once strangers ourselves. And there is that lovely passage from the old King James bible, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I believe this is reminding us that there is God-light in every person and we dare not turn away people based on our own fear of differences – we have no idea how precious that person is to the Divine (or how sacred to others).

So, I guess I arrive at a place where my job is to stand up to oppressors for any human being who is being unjustly treated. Of all the values taught in each world religion and for anyone claiming to be Christian, the highest value is Love. To use the words of Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or any of our great spiritual leaders to do harm or to persecute is the greatest perversion of the Truth. So, we must revive an old saying and, “Speak the Truth to Power with Love.” Say it, sing it, paint it, dance it, mail it, phone it, sculpt it, shout it. But do it for love (not anger or hate). Stand up.

we-all-belong-here-poster

Note: Downloadable poster or coloring book may be found here.

A place for anger…

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anger and outrage have a place at the table – they are motivating, they help us set boundaries and say when enough is enough. But hatred is different. Hatred excludes. Hatred says “I’m in, you’re out” based on whatever we choose. We set the rules.

Self-righteous indignation can help us remember who we are, what we stand for. But when it becomes a disguise for hatred, we need to stop.

I recently read tweet from a respected progressive theologian who was trashing people for switching sides and joining #resist. Huh? What? I do not get that at all.

Isn’t that what we want? For people to awaken from entrenched positions and see reality and truth seems like the goal to me. I love it when someone’s narrow beliefs are shaken and they broaden rather than narrowing further still.

If I’m missing something here, please help me to understand. But if we scream or hurl insults at those whose eyes are opened by our efforts, who are we? What have we become?

Spread the love, friends. 💜💜💜.

Be Impeccable

From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

“Agreement One: I am impeccable with my words. I am loving to myself and others – I let go of fear.”

From the Dalai Lama:

“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstance they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”

And

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Do you have other “words from the wise” to add?

img_1059