Living your prayer

"If the sun refused to shine,
I'd still be loving you.
If mountains crumble to the sea,
there will still be you and me."
-Led Zeppelin

The news are filled with words and reports and images from the Haiti earthquake. After seeing and hearing the news, the question for me  was “What now?”  This took me online and to a UNICEF donation. And texting HAITI to 90999 for an automatic $10 donation.
     They have no water, power, communication. They are shut down. Roads are impassable. But I see images of people helping each other, making do with what they have at the moment… “If the mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”
     We can’t control what Mother Earth (or other people) will do next. To be ready, maybe once in a while…
·         we could assess our surroundings, our attitudes, our choices before looking at others
·         we could ask ourselves ‘what could the consequence be of my words, this action, this decision?’
·         instead of pointing fingers, we could ask ‘how can I be more loving?’
·         when we think we can’t help, we can stay out of the way of those who are helping
·         we can practice being calm and patient so when disaster (whether caused by nature or man's actions) visits, we can be welcoming and make clearheaded decisions, based not on fear, but on the spirit of creating a safe and healthy environment for ourselves and others.

If you are thinking of helping Haiti, please be aware of scams and give only to organizations you already know is legit. This Google page is a start.
     May all that breathes in Haiti, and on the planet, help each other be safe, be free from pain and suffering, be healthy, and be happy.

Happy are those
who consider the poor;
The Lord delivers them
in the day of trouble.
-Psalm 41


Grandma lives on...

A dear friend requested a reading she can deliver when she goes back home to attend her grandma's memorial service. Below is my offering.

    Start with a favorite story involving you and grandma. Something you will not tire of telling your kids and grandkids. (pause)
     Express gratitude as you recall grandma's personal gifts to you. "Thank you, grandma, for giving me...."  With a silent pause, invite all to consider what grandma left for each of us. And what we are leaving, paying forward, our children and the future generations in our family tree. (pause)
     Invite all to look to at the palms of their hands. Ask someone, what do you see on the palm of your hand, Sue? After the reply, talk about how you could see grandma and grandma's grandma and all the grandmas back to the beginning on your palm. Consider your lineage, your genealogy. We just did not appear from nowhere. (pause)
     Then invite all to bring the hand to their faces and "feel grandma, and feel grandma touching your face." Then to the ears and throat, and feel and hear grandma's voice in you. Then to the heart, and feel its beat. That's grandma right there. Then feel the breath. And stay there for a few seconds. Feel grandma's breath in you. Feel grandma live on in you... (pause)
     Invite all to sit back and relax and find that quiet space within themselves, invite all to softly close their eyes and then read the blessing slowly with juicy, let-it-sink pauses between blessings:
May you often pause to remember that you
carry the precious gift of grandma's breath-spirit within you.

May you greet grandma's breath-spirit within you

with gratitude and amazement each day when you awaken.

May you be led by grandma's breath-spirit

to the places in your life that are greatly in need of love.

May grandma's breath-spirit within you help you

to find your way home to your heart when you have lost your way.

May grandma's breath-spirit dance in your life

and bring joy to those you meet each day.

Adapted from (changed "Star-Light" to "grandma's breath-spirit"): 
The Circle of Life by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr


Merton's Central Fear

"What runs and what ticks is,
however, no longer important.
What is important is that life itself
should be "lucid" in me (whoever I am).
I am nothing but the lucidity "in me."
To be opaque and dense with opinion,
with passion, with need,
with hate, with power,
is not to be there,
to be absent,
to nonexist.
The labor of convincing myself
that this nonexisting is a real presence:
this is the source of all falsity and suffering.
This is hell on earth,
and all hell in hell.
This is the hell I have to keep out of.
The price of keeping out of it
is that the moment I give in to any of it,
I feel the anguish of falsity.
But to extinguish the feeling of anguish,
in any way whatever short of straight lucidity,
is to favor ignorance and nonexistence.
This is my central fear
and defines my task in life."
-Thomas Merton

What is your central fear? What hides your heaven, what exposes your hell? Can you keep your heart open in your encounters with your hells?


Lost in Wonderment

I am lost in wonderment
at the depth of his wisdom
when he subjects my secret life
to scrutiny and correction.

It is from some slight improvement
in my behavior
that I experience his gentle goodness.
It is from the reformation and renewal
of the spirit of my mind,
that is, of my deepest humanity,
that I perceive
his beauty and attractiveness.

From the consideration 
of all these taken together
I am overwhelmed
by his abundant goodness.

-Bernard of Clairvaux

For myself, I am overwhelmed by his goodness, I get lost in wonderment, sometimes, by simply walking up the stairs slowly, with all my senses open and active. It is as if I am on my way to the chamber down the hall, filled with fragrant candles and intoxicating music, where my Beloved hums my favorite heart song, while patiently eyeing the slightly opened door.

That's my hint to stop, be quiet, and slowly drink it all in. Feel the breath, feel the sensations in my body, including the achy and creaky parts... and silently say, I love you too, my sweet Lord. 

Ahhh. That brought tears to my eyes.

How about you? When was the last time you felt intensely loved by the Divine? What did you do when you felt it?

Here's a practice:

Do some free-form standing then seated stretches (or yoga poses). While seated, have a rolled towel or blanket on the floor behind you with one end of the blanket against your sacrum. Slowly lie down on your back with the blanket under your spine. Support your head so your neck is not compromised. Let your arms go on the side, palms up. Stay there for a while, breathing through your heart, focusing on the exhales, and imagining your heart getting more spacious and receiving God's Light and Love as you inhale. Enjoy this pose until you have your fill then take the blanket away. Lie on your back flat on the floor. Then finish with a short sitting meditation.

The spirit of Love is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
The spirit of Love is wondrous,
enduring forever;
The rites of Love are true,
awakening compassion.

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and
drippings of the honey comb.

-Psalm 19, Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill



"I went to the end of a road
and took a left or a right,
just to see what I'd see."
-Matthew Altenbach

     The author above is a photographer looking for an image. But I thought the quote is appropriate for today's liturgical feast of Epiphany.
     Epiphany is defined as the manifestation or revelation of what is divine, of what is sacred. "To see what I'd see..." I don't know what will be presented to me, to my senses as I turn around the next moment. To know what's coming, to expect something concrete, could make me ignore what is being revealed to me.
     My sitting meditations usually come to this: resting in God. When I am able to get out of the way, this sacred space consumes me, tears flow. I don't question it. I don't analyze it. I just let it flow as the warmth of the tears trickle down to my chin and drip into my folded hands.
     So in my day to day movements, I am invited to keep an open heart, an open mind. Not holding on to anything, not pushing anything away. Then perhaps, like the magi, I will see and be guided by the Divine Star shining and pointing to the Christ within my heart, within everyone's heart.
     Me, a magi, looking for the Messiah to worship, to adore, and to offer myself as gift. Won't that be an Epiphany?

How about you? How is your way of living a preparation, a readiness for the manifestation of the sacred in every aspect of your life?

Where shall I go to escape your spirit?
Where shall I flee from your presence?
If I scale the heavens you are there,
if I lie flat in Sheol, there you are.
If I speed away on the wings of the dawn,
 if I dwell beyond the ocean,
even there your hand will be guiding me,
your right hand holding me fast.
I will say, 'Let the darkness cover me,
and the night wrap itself around me,'
even darkness to you is not dark,
and night is as clear as the day.

-Psalm 139


Non-Violence: My 2010 Vow

This year, I vow to study, explore, practice, and live non-violence. By study and explore, I mean to be aware of my responses to unpleasant events that I am subject to at any moment. I start with myself. It's the Benedictine way: continuous conversion of the heart, one's heart, not any one else's.
By being aware of my responses, I give myself the chance to do lectio on it. By reflecting on it, by accepting its invitation, by noticing the prayer that bubbles from within, by hearing God's voice, then perhaps, I will be blessed with the wisdom and the courage to respond calmly, and peacefully, at any given moment.
Practicing and living non-violence, I start with the body by eating only vegetables, fruits (those are mangoes, my favorite fruit, in the photo), grains, nuts, and legumes. How is that non-violent? Animal products can contribute to a higher cholesterol and blood pressure. I am not lucky enough to be born with high tolerance for animal products. It's also good for planet earth. I'll also be more serious about my exercise routine. At 60 this year, I have to be more vigilant about maintaining muscular strength, balance, and flexibility. I will join a couple of short walking events this year. And oh! Massage, yoga, walking on a sunny day, or on a rainy day like today with my wife.
The body is the temple of the Spirit. It is thankfulness and reverence to be a good steward of this wonderful work of his hand, the word made flesh, of love manifest.

What about you? What are you doing this year to take care of your body, the temple of the Spirit? Can you celebrate with your body, no matter what you or others may think about it?

For it was you 
who formed my inmost parts;
you knit me together 
in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully 
and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

-Psalm 139