Jonathan provides short, insightful quotes with complementary images. This particular post brings to mind Thich Nhat Hanh’s book No Mud, No Lotus.
Without the mud, there can be no lotus. Too often, we try to avoid the mud and challenges in life. The mud can help ground us in those moments as we take time to rest and reflect. Laozi offers this advice in to deal with life’s challenges: “Do you have the patience to wait/Till your mud settles and the water is clear?/Can you remain unmoving/Till the right action arises by itself?”
Too often, the busyness of life sweeps us away in the rush of its current instead of pausing in the midst of the storm to regain our footing and following the example of nature. There is a universal quality in remaining grounded in the present. Matthew 6:28 reminds us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Even the most pressing issues of our time require us to think about what we can do in our little corner of the universe each day, each moment. We should each remember, if we do what we can in our corner of the universe, we are interconnected or, as Thich Nhat Hanh might say, inter-are with each other.
I came across this post by Bruce on Earth Day, but have been busy attending and presenting at two conferences and completing work with student teachers. My delay provided me with room to reflect on what Earth Day means, raising questions for me about its meaning. Quite often, we relegate one day a year to celebrate a particular event and, once done, we relegate it do a shelf for another year. I think Earth Day is treated that way.
What Bruce’s reminds me of is the daily wonders I experience when I consider Earth Day an ongoing event. In this particular post, he draws on Wendell Berry who is an elegant voice on the concept of caring for the nest we share with each other. In his writing, Wendell Berry reminds me ecology and economy come from the Greek oikos, meaning household. My mother used to say “Even pigs do not poop where they live, eat, and sleep?”
Humans are not separate from nature. We are an integral part of nature and how we treat nature, including one another, speaks to who we are as part of nature. Do we exploit nature for 364 days without any consideration for tomorrow? Or, do we conserve its beauty and while over its worth and common good? I think a word that is often overlooked is prudent. Do we live within our means? Do we care for our household with prudence and care?
I understand the political notions of conversativism and progressivism as a false dichotomy. What does it mean to converse? What do we want to conserve? When we progress, what do we throw out? Both sides, if it can understood as sides, do little to conserve. In fact, I contend that, if we solved our environmental issues, the people who stand on opposite sides would be unhappy. They would be left with nothing to argue about and unable to point accusatory fingers at one another.
The post concludes with: “Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good – good work, good thoughts, good acts, good places – by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’ because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.” In a Judeo-Christian biblical narrative and despite what many claim, we were left to be stewards of nature, to care for it, and allow it to flourish so we might flourish. This is not unique to the Judeo-Christian traditions. There are teachings attributed to The Buddha that speak to how we should treat animals. This includes their habitat, food source, water source, etc. and is not simply the treatment of pets and livestock. As well, Indigenous people share an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and the universe.
I leave with you three quotes and I found many others.
Theresa shared a wonderful Rachel Carson quote in today’s post along with a mountain scene. There is a Zen quality to the quote and picture.
Beauty is always with us and we only have to awaken to experience it. As we each experience the beauty around us and contemplate it in meaningful ways, we experience a wholeness in our lives.
I share pictures of Mount Robson, which I travel past on a regular basis, frequently. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, we experience (extra)ordinary moments in ordinary, taken-for-granted moments. It is in a cup of tea we fully appreciate, the washing of dishes, the eating of a daily meal, etc. we can each discover and re-discover the wholeness of the ordinary. Even with clouds, Mount Robson is magnificently whole.
I wrote this during my last year teaching. It had been a particularly challenging day in the classroom and beyond. The students were full of energy and it was not always healthy. I grew frustrated and visibly annoyed part way through the afternoon. Part of it was a lack of a healthy relationship with the administration, which seeped into my teaching at times. It was challenging to set those frustrations aside, particularly with little support and how it impacted my teaching.
Having said thi, I chose to teach anothere year and wanted to teach those particular students. On myway home, I realized I need to establish a different, encouraging tone. In a sense, my ability to influence is my ability to recognize my reality and walk into the fire, the crucible, so to speak.In his teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me even weeds of a tough day serve a purpose. They fertilize and increase the yield of a crop: children’s learning and this could be lost on on me. For the remainder of the school year, some 7-8 months, I used this as my touchstone.
Sometimes, I allow myself to assume what is out there makes me who I am. If I let it, I succumb to those forces. On the other hand and stepping back from the brink, I reclaim my view and my callings in life. I do not let others and circumstances dictate who I am. I can choose how to respond. This is no mean feat as, in the heat of the battle, it is hard to not be reactionary. The best I can do is be the best I can be in a moment, reflect later, and grow anew with fertilizer provided by tough moments.
unearthing a better, truer self–
resting in my heart.
polishing the gems of self,
righting speech! righting action!
influencing others properly–
reclaiming my voice,
bringing forth my best.
Much to my mother’s chagrin, I got The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan when I was in high school. I still have it and still spin the vinyl after all these years. Although it is now almost 60 years old, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall still rings true for me today. Dylan wrote this in the midst of the Cold War with nuclear threats all around. Today, we are in the midst of multiple crises: health, wealth distribution, inequities, etc. The question I should ask in difficult times, small and large, is how can I be the difference I want to see in the world to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi? Even if it is difficult, it is noble, virtuous, and hopeful, in the face of great obstacles, to speak truth to power, (re)calling I can only make the difference I can make.
I am unsure the title fits the poem , but I left it as is. This was a hard poem to write as I delved into something I am not 100% confident with and that is quantum spirituality. As a quantum physicist writing from a feminist perspective, Karen Barad writes about entanglement. In short, we are entangled with one another, with non-sentient beings, and the inanimate of the Universe. This involves moral responsiblities in relating to those other beings and things, without even knowing what it is and how we are related to each of them.
Medicine wheels are part of many First Nations’ cultures. They connect people to Nature and reflect our interdependence with Nature and each other. They signal the need for harmony in lives and ground us with and in our world. In my understanding, they have quantum aspects to them as we are entangled in ways that suggest we are always seeking harmony in hopeful ways. What a medicine wheel asks us is to acknowledge interdependence, something those who wield levers are woefully reluctant to do. Instead, humans become resources and chattel in making profits in a zero sum game.
After my post In Seeming Chaos, Hope, I wondered about the current state of world affairs e.g. political crises, health crisis, economic crisis, etc. They are entangled with each other. I cannot simply wish one away and the others remain. Moreover, they existed before COVID-19. We did not see them easily. A lack of access to health care was in place for many people before the pandemic. We warehoused elderly people (the not-so nice term is aging people) as has become our custom in the advanced world e.g. schools.
I began to look for a spiritual connection with quantum physics and entanglement and found it. What was interesting was I have been reading about the connections for years in the writings of The Dalai Lama and Fritoj Capra. (The link is to an article where both are referenced.) What Karen Barad does is presents a detailed case for it from a scientific and feminist perspective. I think the feminine perspective is essential, as I consider bell hooks, Mary Belenky, Riane Eisler, etc. to understand how we move away from what Eisler termed a dominator, patriarchal world based on binaries and assigning a number to one that incorporates a participatory, matriarchal world. In this world, Belenky refers to intuitive, feminine, and I would argue, indigenous ways of knowing and wisdom based on the quality of living we each experience. These are impossible to quantify. However, we can describe them in poetic language. What if we had leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel instead of people who pass themselves off as leaders and fall far short of leading?
Basking in Brother Sun’s warmth–
Healing (in)spiriting waters–
(In)haling sweet air–
Homing in on what’s proper,
Resting in one’s responsibilities.
In relating to the Universe–
While standing in Nature–
When Supporting other beings–
Discovering hope(ful) ways.
Intuiting as quantum beings–
Accepting unfelt entanglement–
Hearing unheard voices–
“Crossing love’s hearth.”
Speaking truth to power.
I took the picture on Bowen Island and began to write the poem.
I wrote this as I was making decisions about continuing to teach. There had been considerable upheaval as new administrators arrived and left, families left, and a friend and colleague retired. I found myself constantly in the midst of a storm with little or no control in how things might move forward. At a retreat in Oakland, I spent considerable time reflecting and journaling about the issue at hand, so this was not intended to be a poem and it took a year to write itself.
What I wrote was a summary of the past year and the struggle to ways to create in my teaching and be more present to my students. What I lacked was confidence in who I was and what I was enacting as a teacher, the performativity and improvisation essential to my teaching. I planned a lot in my teaching, but the depth of planning allowed me to improvise in ways that a lack of planning could not.
In The Book of Joy, The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu discuss how loss and fear lead to anger. What is important is during challenging times to try to be aware of what gives us meaning and hope in life. Although I would love to teach and be part of educating the next generation of teachers, I find it easier to accept that is not happening, focusing energies on writing and teaching in a new way. If the situation arose to teach and educate the next generation of teachers, I would consider it. What it is not doing is defining who I am and my life.
Speaking with love–
Accepting the lost.
Sitting with questions,
Accepting uncertainty, incompleteness–
Feeling humbling hope.
Accepting extended hands,
Living my truth;
Questing in each moment.
I took this picture in Arizona in March. It was the last of five I took. Each day, as I walked back, the cactus had bloomed one or two more flowers. The cactus and its flowers exist just to be a cactus and its flowers, beautifying the world. They remind me, even in harsh conditions, plants and animals flourish in their time.
As I was writing, Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up played. It is appropriate. As we face challenges, we move on up and achieve, albeit an unpredictable, something.
Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I am a diehard sports fan in general and hockey specifically. Even with Covid19, I find time to follow hockey on TV without disrupting my writing. What made it interesting was the “work stoppage” by many professional athletes in North America. More than a love for hockey and sports, I feel there is a need for more compassion and equity in this world.
As the National Hockey League was announcing the “work stoppage,” one of the Canadian sports networks interviewed Brian Burke who is a former hockey executive and current hockey commentator. He lives in Canada while holding dual Canadian-American citizenship. He talked about a need to understand this is an important moment in social justice in the US, and I submit Canada. I was excited hockey players and other professional athletes, regardless of colour, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc., took part in the “work stoppages.” (The video is at Burke Supports Players Regarding Boycott).
Burke spoke about how great change is not kicking the door down. It is more like a mud wall being eroded. I think it is watching a mountain change. You have to leave and come back to see if any real change; transformation happened. He mentioned the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and how little of substance has changed since 1968. There are still major impediments and barriers to equity for those who are treated as less than human, denied of rights those who are privileged take-for-granted.
What does mindfulness have to do with all this? We often use the word to simply talk about being aware of something. In a broad sense, it has moral and ethical implications we can overlook. We just say, “I was mindful of such and such.” To mind something or someone is to demonstrate care, tend for it or them and cultivate it or them in a loving way. This crosses boundaries and is steeped in mystical traditions of all stripes e.g. Buddhism, Sufism, Judeo-Christian, etc. It involves lovingkindness, compassion, flourishing, and stewardship. It is about becoming better in indefinable ways.
Several years ago, I wrote this poem after reading a meditation from Father Richard Rohr. Often, he writes about a radical unity that brings us together with our self, creation, neighbours, enemies, and something that is transcendent and beyond each of us.
Seeking to choose better–
Blending one’s passion;
Joining with lovingkindness,
Nurturing better angels,
Bearing healing fruit;
Joining a universal banquet;
Responding to life’s bounty.
Passion for one’s self–
(Com)passion For one another;
Minding the world;
I began talking about hockey, so I will close with a video by David Francey who we have seen numerous times. You will note he has an English accent, but lives in Canada and grew to love hockey while in Quebec. The scene is how many youngsters were introduced to hockey in my generation. I began as a pre-schooler on an outdoor pond. As well, I listened to Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights and La Soiree Du Hockey on Radio Canada Sunday nights. The latter was in French, but, as a person whose first language is French, I was blessed to listen to both. I sat on a kitchen stool in the corner just under the window. When I am on the road, I listen to hockey games on my laptop, never streaming them. I close my eyes and imagine the game as it unfolds.
I wrote this poem as part of a Sabbath activity at the retreat I mentioned in One’s Story and Companions. When I attend a retreat, I enter into a covenant with myself to slow down, talk less, and listen more deeply. In most retreats, that is the norm. We choose to set time aside purposefully and share with purpose in small groups, listening and being present for each other, reflecting in time set aside for solitude, and finding our way back to the circle of kindred spirits. In these ways, it is unlike other conferences, workshops, and training filled with busyness. I focus on opening up space where I experience being vulnerable, in solidarity with others, reflecting, and as I find myself coming home.
The poem began to emerge as I meditated in the morning in the main hall. As I sat, I became fully aware of sounds coming to me from outside as the voice of nature spoke. The reflective moment brought back a memory of the sudden and tragic passing of a young woman the year before. I met her briefly several years before.
Shunryū Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about how each person we greet on life’s journey leaves an imprint on us. We only need to stand or sit quietly and listen and like a wind and gentle rain voices are heard again and again in the silence of that moment.
Sitting inside the drum;
Singing a reverent song,
Tapping, oh-so gently–
Occasional Increased tempo
Adding rhythm in a fresh moment.
Shaking tree limbs and leafs–
Sighing gusts of wind;
Breaking free from reverie,
Dreaming, exploring, imploring
Walking, remembering, enjoying–
Carrying bits of each other.
Yet, in solitude
I took this picture in Waterton Lake National Park several years ago. Memories act like water on rock. They live an imprint, carving out a place in our lives.
The same day Kathy took the picture for my post Time to Rest she took this picture of a single tree standing against the horizon as the sun set. She called it the sun set tree.
This spring and summer has been cool and dreary with many days below average for temperature and with. Yesterday, we began to turn the corner with some heat that is supposed to continue for at least a week. If we wait, the sun comes out and warms things up. For growth to occur, we need rain. As the heat takes hold and the sun does it job, a little rain must fall.
The same applies to our lives. We conflate passion and love. Passion contains love. It also holds moments of sorrow and pain. Compassion is sharing the good, the not-so-good, and refraining from doing harm to other sentient and non-sentient beings. We cannot go it alone. Nature teaches us about the essential idea of inter-being, a concept Thich Nhat Hanh writes about. Being mindful of Nature’s teaching gives insight into how we might inter-be with and in the world. It is not always clear. Into our lives a little rain will fall and there will cloudy days to help produce the sun and growth.
Sentinel stands guard;
Against leaden backdrop;
Gently smiling sun;
Sharing tentative rays.
Receiving warming glow;
Gathering to grow.
Revealing that hidden by shadows;
Smiling with Brother Sun;
Sharing sacred moments.
In a time where social inequity has been laid bare in incredibly visible ways, brought out of the shadows, we need to think, not about what privilege we might lose, but about how we can help each other be lifted up, particularly the most oppressed amongst us. I listened to Simon and Garfunkel growing up and enjoyed The Sound of Silence. This cover is my favourite version and reminds us we need prophets to write words on the subway walls.
I wrote this poem and took this picture while attending a mindfulness retreat several years ago. The picture was taken in the early fall on a beautiful day as the sun warmed, the breeze cooled, and colours changed. When I sit in meditation or practice yoga, mindfulness reminds me I am one part of a much larger scheme. There is a lot acting on me that goes unnoticed and taken-for-granted. It is in mindfulness I remember to be humble and grateful for the small part I do play in the world.