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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.

Alliance

We live in a world of strictly held ideologies. I know some might argue the ideologies are theologies, but I wonder about theologies allowing and promoting killing each other. Several years ago in a conversation, my mother questioned a point I made about a conflict. I responded I was not on anyone’s side, but I am opposed to war in general.

I oppose war and killing, but it does not mean life is easy. It is not an unreal ideal. It suggests I come to terms with a world fraught with failure and difference holding promises of alliances of hope and love. I think it is not so much coming to terms with, but coming to terms in the world. Coming to terms with proposes I live outside humane relationships. Living in the world is alliances and relationships forming beginning in me.

Maya Stein’s poem suggests these alliances require courage and used brave. Brave comes from a word meaning valiant, courageous,  untamed. Courage comes from the same word as heart. In this heart and in this world, I search and research attempting beauty and hope. I wend my way in the moment-to-moment journey seeking answers to Mary Oliver’s question: “what is it you plan to do [in] your one wild and precious life?” This suggests a quality in life and alliances which is not tameable, but perhaps I do not want to tame it. It is in wildness it offers more,

“You have to make an alliance with your anguish,” he said,
“not wage war against it.” And I thought of all the fists
I had shaken at misfortune: games lost
because the shot clock ran out,
a good meal scorched in a forgotten oven,
money dropped on a dress worn only once,
the bully in 6th grade, the math test in 9th,
the wrong outfit at Halloween.
But of course, this isn’t what he meant.

If I were brave enough, I’d tell you how my heart
has raged for love, stretched thin as a high wire.
If I were brave enough, I’d tell you
how my body has been fighting to stay upright
on every precipitous downhill the city
throws at it. If I were brave enough,
I’d climb into your lap and weep with longing.
All I can say is that any attempt at beauty and hope
is land-mined with failure.
And so the perilous track-making begins.
Wending our way through,
there are possible clutches at sunlight, at windows, at yes.
We are each of us inches from death.
We are each of us inches from life.
We are each of us inches from one another.

The Loon

I woke up Friday morning at about 2:30 AM and could not get back to sleep. Finally, I turned the light on and read from a book by Jacques Derrida. It was not as exotic as hearing a loon out on the lake Mary Oliver writes about, but I found refuge reading about the Derridean concept différance.

The word is a deliberate misspelling of the word difference in French and the verb differer which means both to defer and differ. It is the space and time we defer to what and who is different as we encounter it and them. A person would not hear the difference (différance) in speech, but would see it in print. Still, if I did not know the word, I could easily not see the difference in writing.

Needless to say, I found my way back to sleep in the magical reading I found in the hour or so that lapsed. Today, I recalled the times camping, hiking, fishing, etc. where the loon called and I stopped wondering whether it spoke to me or someone else in that moment? Was it deferring to some difference I could not sense and imagine.

Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How

magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.

And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.

Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.

I do not close the book.

Neither, for a long while, do I read on.

I Will Keep Broken Things

Alice Walker wrote what appears to be a long poem, but it is a musing we undertake daily, sometimes without knowing. What are we discarding? It could be, as she recites, we look at material belongings in our house. It could be, as she concludes, the spiritual and hidden phenomena make us who we are.

We are damaged goods, but it is our imperfections that make us perfectly who we are. We look at things in our houses, which to others seem damaged, and we recall stories behind and under the surface. The stories underneath, never fully tellable, reveal themselves in their incompleteness. Each story is sharable to some extent, but it is always our story. Like a tree, the story is revealed in the inner circles and, then, incompletely. In the end, the imperfections that make us perfectly who we are we keep because they enhance our beauty from within.

I will keep
Broken
Things:
The big clay
Pot
With raised
Iguanas
Chasing
Their
Tails;
Two
Of their
Wise

Heads
Sheared
Off;

I will keep
Broken
things:
The old
Slave
Market
Basket
Brought
To my
Door

By Mississippi
A jagged
Hole
Gouged
In its sturdy
Dark
Oak
Side.

I will keep
Broken
things:
The memory
Of
Those
Long
Delicious
Night
Swims
With
You;

I will keep
Broken
things:
In my house
There
Remains
An

Honored
Shelf
On which
I will
Keep
Broken
Things.

Their beauty
Is
They
Need
Not
Ever
Be
‘fixed.’

I will keep
Your
Wild
Free
Laughter
Though
It is now
Missing
Its
Reassuring
And
Graceful
Hinge.

I will keep
Broken
Things:

Thank you
So much!

I will keep
Broken
Things.

I will keep
You:

Pilgrim
Of
Sorrow.

I will keep
Myself.

Love After Love

Derek Walcott wrote this wonderful poem about celebrating life. He suggested we greet ourselves offering hospitality as we realize that we let other things take the place of getting to know the person who was us.

The poem describes a wonderful (wonder filled) companionship in the second stanza. Companionship is sharing meals as we sojourn. Journey is the daily, perhaps moment-to-moment work we do while sojourning. Jacques Derrida drew on an Algerian-French-Jewish background in writing about greeting the stranger, but I don’t know if he meant ourselves.

I considered this today as I prepared a presentation. The world speaks to us and we speak to it, but are we listening as the conversation unfolds? It is in listening to our self that we make sense of the world and it in turn makes sense of us.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

This Is the Dream

One morning we will quietly drift into a harbor we did not know was there. Olav Haugue’s closing line is brilliant. We find the dream and its source in quietness. Without patience and a willingness to endure the difficulties which ultimately arise, the dream cannot be revealed.

I think the dream is not something we know in advance. When the dream appears, we know intuitively this is what we were waiting for and it speaks to us. The questions we carry open up the time, the heart, and the doors.

It’s the dream we carry

that something wondrous will happen

that it must happen

time will open

hearts will open

doors will open

spring will gush forth from the ground–

that the dream itself will open

that one morning we’ll quietly drift

into a harbor we didn’t know was there.

Variation on a Theme by Rilke

Denise Levertov wrote mystical poetry which applied to daily her life. Her poetry contains qualities similar to Rilke who explored life through the spaces provided in poetry. In a sense, poetry acts as a form of Sabbath.

We read poetry’s words and the silence. In the latter, the former come to life asking questions of our whole self. There is no answer in the strictest sense. What emerges in the silence are new questions and as Rilke said, “We live into the questions.”

The silent spaces are important as they enrich the active moments of life. In those silent spaces, we become present in life which confronts us as a sword striking shoulder sending us honorably forward fulfilling life’s tasks and believing we can.

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Chuang Tzu And The Butterfly

Li Po wrote poems that asked questions. A common theme was drinking alcohol, but, when I read his poetry, I wonder if it was alcohol or his intoxication with the world he lived in? What is real and not real sometimes blurs boundaries and we ask questions about what is real and not real. Who is the leader and who is not appears in Li Po’s poetry.

Herman Hesse blurred the lines between Leo as a leader and Leo as a servant in Journey to the East. Who serves who? What does it mean to lead and serve? There is a Taoist quality in those questions.

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly,
And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking.
Which was the real—the butterfly or the man ?
Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?
The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea
Returns anon to the shallows of a transparent stream.
The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city,
Was once the Prince of the East Hill.
So must rank and riches vanish.
You know it, still you toil and toil,—what for?

The Opening of Eyes

I spent a great two weeks at home. I concluded my time away with a wonderful weekend in Seattle where I attended a poetry weekend, along with about 150 others, facilitated by David Whyte. A major theme was asking beautiful questions: questions we need to ask that show stories in our lives that are possibly outdated. We open our eyes for what appears to be the first time and there is a renewal.

An important part of beautiful questions is they guide us towards new horizons. We feel grounded by home’s foundations and  drawn forward from that stable place in imaginative ways. There is something spiritual and biblical about this feeling as we find the courage in our hearts to let go in ways we had never imagined possible.

That day I saw beneath dark clouds

the passing light over the water

and I heard the voice of the world speak out,

I knew then, as I had before,

life is no passing memory of what has been

nor the remaining pages of a great book

waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.

It is the vision of far off things

seen for the silence they hold.

It is the heart after years

of secret conversing

speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert

fallen to his knees before the lit bush.

It is the man throwing away his shoes

as if to enter heaven

and finding himself astonished,

opened at last,

fallen in love with solid ground.

Making Peace

Denise Levertov wrote this wonderful and I think it is a good way to bring my week to an end as I head to Sabbath. Stephen at Grow Mercy posted this earlier and I did try to share it with those who follow my blog. It did not make it over and this was the next best thing I could do to get it to you folks. Take a moment and visit Stephen’s blog.

I used a lesson plan with my students where we talked about a culture of war and a culture of peace. They had to describe each one and we did them separately. We have many more words that come to mind when we talk about peace. I filled whiteboard, they would share for an hour, be disappointed when it was over, and the quiet ones were always present. There is a presence in peace. The students ran out of ways to describe a culture of war very quickly.

A voice from the dark called out,

“The poets must give us

imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,

is not there ahead of itself,

can’t be imagined before it is made,

in the words of its making,

grammar of justice

syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,

dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have

until we begin to utter its metaphors,

learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear

if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,

revoked its affirmation of profit and power,

questioned our needs, allowed

long pauses. …

A cadence of peace might balance its weight

on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

an energy field more intense than war,

might pulse then,

stanza by stanza entering the world,

each act living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light–facets

of the forming crystal.

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