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Throw Yourself Like Seed

This poem is interesting and that begins with the title. It is not a particular or the seed. It is seed. We cast our spirit and who we are like seed and it finds fertile ground in living in abundant ways. It is us who must be fertile in our interactions with the world we live in. I think that is what the poet Miguel de Unamuno is suggesting.

We tend the soil through mindful attentiveness revealing what is good in our work and in the world. Our work is a gift to the world when it is done this way. Work helps define living. When embedded in something we love, it shows and is revealed easily. We speak to the world through the voice our work does. In a way, work is the serious work of playfulness.

In casting seed, we make the world a better place when it is done mindfully and with care. When done that way, the harvest is rich and abundant.

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

Getting There

I wrote about unburdening one’s self in Dancing With Your Skeletons. David Wagoner suggests something similar in this poem. Being present means being in the here and now and we are always a getting there and arriving. In getting there, it is important to keep the backpack light and dance with skeletons.

Somewhere in our journey, we lose the serious childlike playfulness we had when we were young. It is in being adults we journey with regret. The word journey is from the French journée which is less about the measure of time and about events contained in the day/jour. Adding née at the end makes jour into a gerund continuously recurring. It is a never-ending and unfolding, impossible to make sense of in the moment. Its time is immeasurable, only livable.

Née is being born as and in the living undertaken we are continuously being born in each event and each moment. In mindfulness, we  journey without regret. The there we want is the next moment which continuously unfolds. Living is  creating and becoming with welcome uncertainty and we only know we arrive when we arrive. It is unexpected.

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.
What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline.
What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.
You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.

Dancing With Your Skeletons

Dancing With Your Skeletons.

Yesterday, I made a short presentation about mindfulness in daily life at a small church 2 hours west of Edmonton. The pastor spoke about lightening our burden and not carrying the weight of the world in our backpacks. It is important to lighten the load.

Dyan makes  a similar point using the metaphors of dancing with skeletons. The Marianne Williamson provided a more Jungian approach in the quote about shadows.

There are reasons we are called and given voice in our lives. Sometimes, we do not see the reasons easily and we need to examine the weight in our backpack, dance with our skeletons, and know our shadow side. Being mindful is about knowing what to discard, what to retain, and making sense of it as we take the next step. I spent 20 years teaching and it was challenging at times, but I know those challenges were worthwhile and meant something. I was not always sure of the meaning, but I danced with the tunes being played in the shadows and my skeletons learned to dance as they came out of the closet.

Untitled (Where are you going)

We flew across Canada today, returning from holidays. We spent time in nature and exploring historical roots in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Maine but is nice to be going home.

We discussed that this is the first time we went on an extended holiday in many years. We spent over two weeks on the road and it is tiring. The days we stayed put and did not move from one place to another allowed us to recoup.

This poem reminded me of home’s importance. When we stop and take a moment to see the place we call home through new eyes, we see and feel its heart, the rhythm of what home means. Peter Levitt concluded it is in extraordinary moments  we find the place closest to our hearts.

I am reading James Hillman and he suggested we sometimes limit our thinking about the heart to a physiological pump. The heart serves a greater purpose in that we find our purpose within it and have courage to follow those purposes. It is being in the moment we find courage and confidence to feel at home in each moment. The heart is a rhythmic source for our moment-to-moment journeying. We are always going somewhere and it is important to be at home wherever we end up.

Where you are going

and the place you stay

come to the same thing.

What you long for

and what you have left behind

are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out

into the field and look

at that towering oak—

an acorn still beating at its heart.

O Captain! My Captain!

The character John Keating, played by Robin Williams, used this Walt Whitman poem to set the stage for much of the movie, Dead Poet’s Society.

I do not dispute the original writing of the poem might literally be about the captain’s death and today it pays homage to Robin Williams. The movie did deal with the difficult issue of suicide. Having said this, I think it is important to consider a figurative meaning about teaching which was Keating’s profession in the movie so ably brought to life by Robin Williams.

I critiqued the movie from a teacher’s perspective while completing my Master’s degree. I spoke about the passion teaching brought into my life. I extend this to anything we choose to do. When we lose the spirit and voice that a vocation offers each of us, it is figuratively and literally a death, as well.

I recall using Parker Palmer’s quote about vocation and voice coming from the Latin vocere. Voice gives us life. Robin William’s portrayal of John Keating spoke deeply to me about holding true to the purposes we are called to in life.

                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Daily Reflection and Peace

Daily Reflection and Peace.

We face an important challenge with mindful practice. The article linked above addresses this challenge with questions. Questions are fundamental to being challenged. When I am challenged, I ask questions. I question what is happening and what is making me feel a particular way.

When I read many articles about mindfulness, I find the articles miss the key underlying aspect of mindfulness, being present in the world in ways that improve one’s life and in that improvement the world is continuously becoming a better place. It is not about a corporate bottom line in the way we understand a corporate bottom line. I guess the bottom line is harder to measure. I cann0t apply a number to it, report it to shareholders, and make a banker satisfied. What I can do is ask, “Did I make the world a better place in some way by becoming a better person?”

Can you imagine if 7 billion plus people worked on making the world a better place through their living? That might be a number that is unmeasurable, but that is OK. It would be so big it would not need to be reported. Its quality would speak for itself.

O Slave, Liberate Yourself.

The second stanza drew me into Kabir‘s poem. We search for homes throughout life. It is right there embedded in each moment. When I am awake in each moment, the search is easier. I become aware and attentive sensing each moment’s  transience.

When we let go and stop grasping, we are released from slavery and tyranny chasing tails and tales. When we fail and chase, the feeling enslaves us and it is worse than death. Living each moment is the antidote to this feeling and is liberating.

O Slave, liberate yourself.

Where are you, and where’s your home,
find it in your lifetime, man.

If you fail to wake up now,
you’ll be helpless when the end comes.

Says Kabir, listen, O wise one,
the siege of Death is hard to withstand.

Voice of The Inanimate

Voice of The Inanimate.

Last night, I pressed Our Grandmother from Eddie Two Hawks. In my comments, I mentioned Wendell Berry and the way I understand place in his writing. Wendell Berry’s work is used by the deep ecology movement which in many ways is not a movement. It is a way of life. For years, I critiqued the environmental movement as a corporate movement with many of the same characteristics of the business they criticized. Wendell Berry, similar to all good farmers, values the land. He speaks about as if it were living. It is not separate from us, but a part of us. When I think about this, it makes local and community environmental work incredibly important. It decries the corporate pillaging that goes on both sides of the equation.

Wendell Berry speaks of the land as a living and animate thing. This makes sense. The plants we grow happen in the healthy, which comes from the same root as whole, ecosystem. When we see ourselves embedded in this ecosystem and not overloads, it changes our relationship with nature. Alex commented the word nature comes from a word meaning birth. When certain parts of the ecosystem are damaged made, unwhole and unhealthy, the birth itself cannot be healthy.

Each contribution we make adds something to the world we live in. It is when we see ourselves as part of the world and nature that we make the greatest contributions to community. We are stewards, serving the world in loving ways. This is another analogy for the thinking of the world as grandmother. We treat our grandmothers with love.

Our Grandmother

Our Grandmother.

This is a wonderful quote. When we think of our grandmothers, we think of someone we want to treat with respect, dignity, and integrity for their wisdom. Mother Earth is the same. She possesses so much wisdom that when we are open and see ourselves as being one with the world we receive that wisdom.

Today, Kathy and I talked about place the Wendell Berry speaks about it. When we feel we live in a place, it means something profound to us. We think of those places not as out there, but very much in us and us in that place. We find community in those places because we have much in common with the others who live, animate and inanimate.

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN IMAGES: THE SIMPLEST THINGS IN LIFE

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN IMAGES: THE SIMPLEST THINGS IN LIFE.

I mention my favourite poets regularly i.e. Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry and want to mention my favourite prose writer Paulo Coehlo. This post begins with a quote from Manuscript Found in Accra asking we let the simplest things reveal there extraordinary nature. The photography underscores this point.

It is in the ordinary the extraordinary is revealed is one of my favourite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. When I am mindful, present, and attentive, I sense the extraordinary I rush past in my haste to get to the next moment.

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