Surely it isn’t too late to say Happy New Year! I know I’ve been dawdling; however the first month of the year, January, is still with us. I hope it has been a good month for you. As for me, I could handle a little more winter than we are having here in Arkansas. Even though winter is my fourth favorite season I long to experience it to the full. From the news, I gather that some of you could do with a little less winter. We don’t get to choose, do we? The only thing we have control over is our attitude. Or, do we?
I have a practice of choosing a word for each month of the year. My chosen word for this month is see. I was waiting for something more profound and lofty to come along but it didn’t appear. The word 'see' perched on the rim of my glasses and refused to go away, so it has stayed and hopefully will spend a whole year with me--maybe even an entire lifetime. So where is the power in this little word that holds such profound meditative qualities? Practice SEEING and you will experience the power.
SEEING is so much deeper than just looking. It is more all-embracing, all-encompassing, uniting and enfleshing. It is a way of beholding. Many look but do not see. To truly see, you must allow whatever it is you are gazing upon to enter the temple of your being. It becomes flesh in you and you see the way God sees. You are able to see as the poet and the artist sees.
I am almost sure that when Edith Wharton wrote the words below, she was seeing the new day. She wasn't just looking at it. As I reflected on her words, a simple poem arose out of my own seeing.
SET WIDE THE WINDOW. LET ME DRINK THE DAY! --Edith Wharton
SET WIDE THE WINDOW. LET ME DRINK THE DAY! --Edith Wharton
....and now I say the same to you:
Open your window today.
Let it all come in: winter, spring, summer, fall
Meadows, oceans, sunrises, sunsets
Green leaves and blossoms, snow draped branches
Vineyards, mountains, hills, deserts
Rivers, lakes, brooks and streams
Joy, sorrow, excitement, discouragement
Hope, doubt, enthusiasm, courage, love
Grief, healing, compassion, tenderness
Strength, anger, vitality, delight, faith!
Let all have a place in the window of your soul.
Drink in the day!
Recently I had the opportunity to walk among the giant redwoods in northern California. We drove through the Avenue of the Giants for about 32 miles, stopping occasionally to walk through the groves. Gazing into the immensity of those branches to the tops of the trees and on into the sky beyond, I suddenly felt infinitesimal small. An experience such as this is difficult to name. Although It brought tears to my heart I couldn't seem to get them to my eyes. Standing in such a magnitude of beauty I realized there was no way I could adequately photograph it. That would be like trying to take a picture of God.
Then suddenly I notice, at my feet, the lush green ferns that have grown out of the moist rich compost of dead trees and foliage. In the forest everything is interconnected. They are relatives. It is so easy to be in awe of the powerful steeples of the giant ancestors and not even notice their small lush green relatives at my feet. How often I do that in daily life. Humility rises out of the ground and gazes on me with love. I begin to realize that there is an unseen world right here at my feet made up of lichens, leaves, branches, cones, beetles, centipedes, rodents--more than I can name.
Now I begin to walk more carefully marveling at the community I am moving through.
The joy of interconnection massages me and I feel OK about being small.
"WHAT NINE MONTHS OF ATTENTION DOES FOR AN EMBRYO, FORTY EARLY MORNINGS WILL DO FOR YOUR GRADUAL GROWING WHOLENESS." --Rumi
My 'forty early mornings ritual' ends today and I have, once again, been caught up in the beauty of morning:
And there was silence--especially when I walked into the pre-dawn morning when the stars were still visible.
And so, I will probably continue my morning ritual whenever possible.
It wasn't always easy to be there, and I missed a few mornings, but what I learned is that living awake is a sacramental experience. I also learned, in some small way, that I must make every effort to carry my wakefulness into the new day.
It is not easy to live awake! It is, however, a noteworthy accomplishment to live awake! When we are able to do so the people with whom we live and move and have our being will be richly blessed.
The gospels offer us a fascinating story about a bold woman in need of healing. She is so intent in her desire to be healed that she risks ridicule and misunderstanding. In the midst of a throng of people clamoring to be near Jesus, she pushes through the crowd wanting only to touch the hem of his garment and remain unseen. Just touching the tassel of his robe was enough for her. Jesus felt the power of healing go forth from him and asked that famous question, “Who touched me?” It was a strange question to be asking in a large crowd hemming him in on all sides and his disciples let that be known! Why did Jesus know that someone touched his hem? He felt the power flowing—moving through him—and out of him.
We, too, can experience this power flowing out of us and into us if we but open our eyes to all of life’s happenings. A gentle embrace is a power exchange. Taking someone who can no longer drive, for a journey into the country is touching the hem of God’s garment. Opening an orange for someone when their arthritic fingers will no longer allow them to do so is touching the hem of the garment.
The whole world is God’s garment. When I move through the beautiful outdoor world these days as I practice my FORTY EARLY MORNINGS ritual I am amazed at how (when I am attentive) the Power of the One who created it all, moves out of each flower, each tiny creature, even from the very ground upon which I walk. The secret of course is to live awake so that we can experience that gentle Christ-Power flowing out to us, then from us to others.
When I pause to really behold and even touch a tree it is like touching the hem of Jesus' garment. Try it and, like the woman of the gospels, believe that some small healing is taking place in your soul.
Practice touching the hem of God's garment this week. Be very conscious of how you hold things. Somewhere in his vast array of writings Thomas Merton suggests that the saints preach and teach by the way they sit or stand, by the way they pick things up and hold them in their hands. His words suggest reverence and total presence. Although this sounds easy it is difficult to achieve. Even so, it is worth the practice--it is a spiritual practice.
"The fast pace of our lives makes it difficult
for us to find grace in the present moment,
and when the simple gifts at our fingertips
cease to nourish us,
we have a tendency to crave the sensational."
-A Tree full of Angels: seeing the holy in the ordinary
by Macrina Wiederkehr
Something kind of sad happened in my life recently. I suddenly discovered that I had lost morning. To lose morning is indeed a great sadness. As a child and on through my adult life, morning has been one of my teachers; and by morning I mean experiencing morning outdoors. Inside it is sometimes difficult to even realize that morning is happening.
I have had some health problems recently and seriously began wondering if it had anything to do with my lost mornings. I decided to do an experiment. I have created a little ritual for myself called, FORTY EARLY MORNINGS.
I borrowed the idea from the mystical poet, Rumi who in one of his poems tells us: “what nine months of attention does for an embryo forty early mornings will do for your gradual growing wholeness.”
Forty early mornings! As I spoke these words over and over again, they began to sound like a gift I could give myself. So I began my ‘forty early mornings’ on July 4. This is my prayer and I try not to carry very many words with me. Perhaps a line of scripture, from a poem, or maybe even just the name of someone I want to remember in prayer. My one rule is, use very few words or no words. Just receive the morning. Yesterday my prayer words were, “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
This morning was the sixth day of my FORTY EARLY MORNINGS ritual. It was my no-word day. The morning was foggy and misty. I walked slowly waiting for the sun. Finally the picture above immerged. I beheld it before photographing. I am allowing myself only one picture. After all, my early morning is not about taking pictures. It’s about being in the morning. I try to take my picture fairly early into my walk lest I be tempted to focus solely on photographing and waiting for the perfect picture.
After my picture is taken I often see another picture that I would like to capture, but no, I surrender the urge and just behold the picture. This image is for the heart and soul.
In the picture above, I love the paleness of the sun. An almost presence! A little earlier it looked like a host, the Blessed Sacrament anointing me for the day’s tasks.
Brevity! The word itself doesn't sound very poetic yet the reality of the word points to where poetry comes from. The less we say (the fewer words we write) the more room we have for ‘white space’ – sometimes what isn’t there helps us to see more fully what is there. The fewer words we use to write our message the more likely people will be drawn to read what we write. You've probably heard the saying, "if I had, had more time I would have written a shorter letter." Strange as it sounds it makes sense. To write something provocative and magnetic--something that draws the reader in, you need time for reflection. You need dwelling time. You wait beside the WELL of yourself, listening for a voice of wisdom. Then slowly you lift the words out of deep places within. Sometimes you have to wait a long time for the words to reveal themselves to you. What are you being invited to say? How can you say it without sounding preachy? How patient are you in waiting for the words to be revealed? Have you ever attempted to converse with someone who is so full of words you are unable to understand what they are trying to say?
It's the same with a flower. One flower can speak in ways a bouquet cannot. Gaze at the flower above. Can you hear its message? Are you able to discern the poetry of its short life? Is this one bright piece of beauty enough for you?
Consider the beauty of the message that words have the potential of offering you. Brief is beautiful. Small is beautiful. Less can be exactly what you need. Ponder the words below. You may want to choose one of the words to use in a descriptive paragraph. Keep in mind the wisdom of brevity.
Words to consider: branches, family, blessing, solitude, turtle, meadow, night, courage, possibility, dwell, home, owl, temple, Jesus, healing…
The soup of my own chaos is richly blessed. Each day it is seasoned with darkness and light, possibility and despair, blessings and burdens, joys and sorrows, doubt and faith, hopes and fears, moments and hours.
In the morning I begin to gather the ingredients without noticing that I am gathering them. Hastily I throw them into the vessel of my life and they simmer as I stew. My days are not necessarily dark and depressing yet not as vibrant and mindful as they might be if I could train myself to remember to season my soup with radical presence. How often I forget both head and heart, leaving them in my room on my pillow as I race through the hours, mindless and heartless. Yet for all the inadequate ways I ply the culinary skills of my life when I come home to my evening stew it tastes like a consciousness examen and somehow, in spite of myself, I retire in peace.
Perhaps the reason for this peace is that I seldom retire without glancing over my day: forgiving myself where forgiveness is needed, affirming myself in little ways and asking God for support for the next day.
The soup of my own chaos ascends like incense in the evening hours as I offer to the heavens the only life I have. How grateful I am for the struggle to live with authenticity each day!