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when the animals

Gary Lawless suggests that the world, as a living being, and its inhabitants speak to us, asking for help. Do we listen?

I told the boys, as they grew up, that listening and hearing are different. We hear, but, without listening, what we hear disappears immediately. In the busyness and rush of daily living, it is hard and sometimes impossible to be mindful and attentive.

When we sense the world, other humans, animals, and plants come alive for us and give the world continuously new meaning.

In yesterday’s post, Every Movement, I wrote about creating never being completed. It becomes an infinite event that  continuously occurs and calls for us to be wakeful even in our dreams. Creation sings in a delicate, beautiful language that we share with the world and its inhabitants.

When we recognize Creation as a continuous event, our hearts open up and we become one with the rest of Creation, able to help.

When the animals come to us

     asking for our help,

     will we know what they are saying?

When the plants speak to us

     in their delicate, beautiful language,

     will we be able to answer them?

When the planet herself

     sings to us in our dreams,

     will we be able to wake ourselves, and act?

Every Movement

The philosopher and Talmudic scholar Emmanuel Levinas proposed that events are ongoing and remain incomplete, including creation as an event. In a sense, God’s creating is never completed.

Hafiz suggests something similar when it comes to understanding God’s work. It is a movement, an event. I find it easy to say no without pausing and being attentive. What does this mean? Am I able to understand its meaning at this time?

There is little patience in waiting for the luminous movement of existence. Quite often, we want something and set forward in a singular way captivated by the thoughts of that might mean as if living is done in moments. When we are patient, mindful, and attentive, the luminous movements appear at the most unexpected times that cannot be measured and described in any complete way.

I rarely let the word “No” escape
From my mouth
Because it is plain to my soul
That God has shouted “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
To every luminous movement in existence.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes wonderful, often short, poetry and this poem is no exception. The small and overlooked things in nature seem to call to her so she can share their words with the world.

When we just pay attention, we notice people and things that we might overlook in our haste to move through the world and our days. Praying is a doorway, not a contest. Prayer calls upon each of us to listen and give thanks for the world and its gifts. It is in those mindful and attentive moments that the world speaks to us and it is in silence that we hear its words.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

A Prayer Among Friends

We live in a world populated by others and surrounded by things. Often, we take the communal nature of living for granted. John Daniel suggests we walk together “in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long.” He counsels that we spend our time with each other and the world generously.

Being present, mindful, and attentive to others and the world lifts our relationships from the taken-for-granted to the meaningful. We elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary, finding beauty in the smallest details that are easily overlooked in the busyness of our living.

Sam Intrator wrote about the etymology of companion, which is breaking and sharing bread on one’s journey. As a teacher, eating lunch with students became an important feature of my relationships with them. I got to them and they me during those more informal moments, adding depth to the pedagogic relationships.

I often feel eating lunch with students added to “gift of good work” that pedagogy calls teachers and others to be part of. Taking time with each other over meals is similar to a prayer spoken from the heart and the listening for responses.

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

 

Love Does That

I have not used Meister Eckhart in my writing and what little I know about his work comes indirectly through reading others such as Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr.

His poetry follows the mystical line of his other writing, exploring spiritual questions that are challenging to explore. The monk in the poem is a whisperer who for a few moments lifts the worries from the little burro. He shares a pear, rubs her/his ears, looks into his/her eyes as if the he might see the burro’s soul, and offers kindness to the burro.

How often do we find ourselves worrying about things that only bother us? How tired we feel in those times. Sometimes, we pause and lift the burdens that weigh down our minds and spirits. Other times, we have our whisperers who share love with us and help lift life’s burdens. Similar to the burro, we are free to laugh, even for a few seconds. Love is the balm for our tired spirits.

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only
burros.
And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.
Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,
he looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears
and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,
because love does
that.
Love frees.

talisman

When we pray, the words are an amulet for someone to wear. Suheir Hammad suggested the words remind us there is a divine space in each of us, waiting to be brought out as we write and speak. Inside each of us, there is a space of strength and courage we can offer to others as we write and repeat the poetic words.

In silence that endures within each of us, we discover the gestures and words of prayer and poetry another has written and spoken. A prayer reaches out to the other and adds strength to their living in moments of hardship, reminding them they are not alone. It is in those moments that something stirs gently and unexpectedly in us, reminding us we are not alone and perhaps a smile appears similar to the sun and moon’s warmth.

During those moments, we find the words written and spoken in silence. It is essential we set aside the busyness of daily living and listen attentively for those words to bring the god out in each of us.

it is written
the act of writing is
holy words are
sacred and your breath
brings out the
god in them
i write these words
quickly repeat them
softly to myself
this talisman for you
fold this prayer
around your neck fortify
your back with these
whispers
may you walk ever
loved and in love
know the sun
for warmth the moon
for direction
may these words always
remind you your breath
is sacred words
bring out the god
in you

The Other

When we lived in rural British Columbia, there were winter nights that were so crisp, cold, and clear that the silence made sounds. It cracked and crackled. Things sounded so much closer in the cold. At the farm, trains went by 2 kilometres away, but in the cold, clear night they were just outside.

We had a dog, a wonderful German Shepherd and on those nights she would often become agitated wanting out and barking at the mountains and sky. I listened, but could not hear what she heard. Even though there were new sounds for me, there were likely others that escaped me and our dog heard them.

I think R. S. Thomas captured this sound of silence and prayer brilliantly. It reaches out and we hear something even when we do not hear actual sounds and see the people speaking to us. We feel them and the world at large. We are in concert and communion with the other – sentient and non-sentient – even though we cannot see them, sharing a prayer in that silence. Laying there, words come to us out of silence finding their way from heart to heart to heart.

There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

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