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The Simple Life

I began looking through some poetry I have written over the years and the first one I came across was this one called The Simple Life. I am going through the poetry, as I think with the time provided, I might look to put them into a coherent form and publish a book of poetry. I promised myself I would do this and have been given the time to work on project.

I enjoy solitude. For me, it is time to recharge batteries. Even on holidays, I spend time with Kathy and not many others. We visit family and friends, and hike. On the trail, we meet people to see plants and animals of the area.

It is good to be alone at times,

Sheltered by comforting trees,

The wind singing its song,

Here, I experience freedom and peace,

For the moment, worries set aside.

Minnows dart at the water’s edge,

Dancing between light and shadows,

Seemingly, without a care,

There, they experience home’s safety;

Its primal call.

Here, this is me,

I exist within a simple space;

An unseen hand beckons me,

I wave to this life,

Enjoying it each time I return;

Nature’s beauty gradually revealed.

I wrote the poem after spending the day hiking in Waterton Lake National. The one reference is to standing by the lake and watching minnows dart in and out of the sun and shadows. In Arizona, we hiked in an area of Buckeye called Skyline Regional Park.

I took the pictures below over five or six days as the cactus blossomed. As a result, we walked the same path with some variations over that time. We got to see nature’s beauty gradually being revealed.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Regardless of where I am, I am in relationship with other humans and the world we share. It is easy to take these relationships for granted. Over the years, I discovered, children and youth embrace differences more readily than adults.

Through the use of satire, made up words, and unusual characters, Theodor Geisel, better known to us as Dr. Seuss, took a stand against bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues. In this way, I think his characters depict pluralism we live in. Yes, there is no Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, or Cat in the Hat, but we can learn to appreciate and defer to their beautiful differences. Even within  differences, I find more similarities and common ground with others, a sense of community of humans.

We need this in the world we co-inhabit with other sentient and non-sentient beings. Too often, people who masquerade as leaders tell us to see difference as a problem, to exploit Nature, and to separate ourselves from our better angels. Perhaps our better angels are Thing 1 and Thing 2.

298x322 Unique Dr Seuss Images Ideas Dr Seuss Art, Dr

I retrieved the Thing 1 and Thing 2 image from Clip Art Mag.

I took this picture Sunday at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Even in the midst of an urban setting, like Phoenix, we discover spots where nature and humans co-exist in almost perfect harmony. In truth, we are never separate from nature and humans. It is only in our thoughts we are separate, somehow superior. When we are present and mindful, we recognize there are no boundaries.

Here are four of my favourite Dr. Seuss quotes:

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact.
And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.

What Do You Plan to Do with Your One Wild Life?

Mary Oliver wrote the beautiful poem The Summer Day. She ended the poem with a question: “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Actually, she included several questions, which are not answerable in any certain way. Life is unpredictable, but what we want to do with it echoes Hans-Georg Gadamer who wrote “desire beyond wanting.” To me, this suggests we each aspire, perhaps can aspire, to something beyond simply knowing and planning. There is more to life than we can plan and predict, yet we can hope.

I think, as important, the question is about vocation and what calls us forward and animates each of our spirits. Thomas Merton and Parker Palmer write about how vocation and voice relate to one another and are how we express who we are in life. Merton goes so far as to say some of us are perhaps destined to search without discovering what calls us.

I wonder, “have we lost this sense of spiritual purpose in the early part of the 21st Century?” We look out there, read the newspapers, follow 24/7 news, etc. and feel deep despair and hopelessness, perhaps even disinterest to follow what beckons. I don’t say this lightly. Two incidents led me to wonder about this. First, at a recent community engagement conference, I was struck by how much despair filled the room. Second, in a private conversation with a parent, they commented how a child was struggling with what exists beyond our individual life. The child is experiencing a sense of despair over this. In part, this is exacerbated because the parents are atheists and feel unable to give guidance in a spiritual way. Finding our voice and who we are is more than an instrumental process of work. It goes beyond to the spiritual essence of who each are and how that brings meaning to our lives and the world.

In the latter setting, I emphasized the idea that we conflate religion and spirituality. One can be deeply spiritual and non-religious and non-theist. One can be religious and theist without being spiritual. The essence of spirituality is to find what calls to me and respond with the qualities of life I want to find in the world. I don’t think those in short supply, but, if we listen to the media, we come away with a different view. At the heart of this, might be the great existential questions poets, like Mary Oliver, ask us.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I include a lovely reading by Mary Oliver of this poem.

Winter Nights

Despite the title, this is a Christmas poem. I wrote it several years ago about the joy and anticipation I felt, as a child, at this time of year. This was embedded in family and community rituals I experienced growing up. In a consumptive and materialistic world, some of this has been lost. What I do is hold onto the memories.

We lived in an old house and it was often very cold. In the evenings, my mother and three older brothers went across the street to the church for evening mass. This was part of the rite of passage for me. In junior high, I joined them.

Many evenings, I sat by the heavily frosted window to watch my mother and brothers return. Some of those evenings were clear, the sky filled with stars, and sometimes the Northern Lights were part of Nature’s light show.

Breathlessly awaiting,

Through frosted window peering

Small children–

Soaking it in.

Heavens rippling–

Lights undulating;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

An old house speaking;

Nature answering–

The heavens crackling

Sweet symphonic music.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours shimmering

Capturing young eyes.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminding–

Christ’s Mass draws near.

I took this picture at the farm this past weekend. The sun goes down early here at this time of the year. They had just had fresh snow, with about 8-10 inches falling in one day, so the scene was still quite untouched.

Gift

I began reading a book called Thomas Merton—Evil and Why We Suffer: From Purified Soul Theodicy to Zen. The author, David Oberson, explores the evolution of Merton’s view of good and evil throughout his adult life, framed, first, through a mystical and monastic Christian view and, then, a growing interest in Zen Buddhism towards the end of his life.

I have always been fascinated with Merton’s wide ranging relationships, nurtured through letter writing. Some I knew about from previous readings e.g., Thich Nhat Hanh, Dororthy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Today, I found another one of his relationships; this one with the poet Czeslaw Milosz who lived under Nazi and  Soviet oppressors in Poland before moving to the US. Merton and Milosz shared concerns about totaliarianism, scientism, racism, etc., which I can only imagine would be intensified in today’s global climate.

Milosz wrote a beautiful poem called Gift to remind me suffering that emerges from life is impermanent. In this poem, he reminds me their is always something beautiful and good, as he alludes to nature and creation that emerges to replace the suffering.

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

I took this picture in BC about two years ago. As I walked on this morning, I reached a higher spot on the path and saw the lake in the distance fog covered. Like the fog, the suffering lifts with time and a warming sun. I let go of the envy, anger, grasping to be present when I work in the garden that is nature.

Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. We celebrated yesterday with two sons and a partner due to work schedules. We will celebrate again for American Thanksgiving. This is in part due to my time in the US completing my PhD and we have extended family who are from the US.

The idea of two Thanksgivings led me to reflect. What am I grateful for each day? I am thankful for family, friends, good neighbours, good health, a house that will feel like home as it is built on our original property, and many other people and things.

What if we thought of each day as a day to give thanks, a thanksgiving?

I wrote this poem called Thanksgiving several years ago.

Gratitude and thankfulness

Share each sacred moment–

Turn to beloved others,

Hold tight,

Acknowledge worth,

(Extra)ordinary emerges from ordinary

Moment by moment–

The taken-for-granted

Reveals itself.

Sharing bounty,

Feeling blessed,

Expressing gratitude,

Saying daily prayers of thankfulness.

I took this in Jasper National Park with the Athabasca Falls behind Kathy.

The video above is by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I have several of her CD’s. Enjoy and be thankful.

New Intersections

I began to write my first sentence to introduce the poem I intended to post and realized the prose had a poetic quality. I have been fussing since writing Autumn Promises about a lack of inspiration.

Inspiration is not something we chase. Instead, it emerges. I am reading Deeper than Words by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He refers to Jung’s concept of synchronicity. There are moments things emerge from nowhere with no real explanation.

The last few weeks I spent ruminating over where I am going. I am not teaching in a classroom and teaching is calling for me, deeply spirtual and inspiriting for me. When I talk to colleagues and others, they think I would be a good fit for college and university education faculties, but there is little happening and little on the horizon.

As a result, I considers how I reshape, without certainty and chasing, where I go next. The result is a Youtube channel and a Facebook Page with an introductory video about mindfulness in daily life. In various forms, I wrote about this topic in my PhD course work, presented on it, and facilitated retreats and workshops.

I posted the video below. If you have feedback on content, delivery, and directions for this project, please let me know.

Day arrives,

New intersections in life,

“Where next?”

Paths unmarked,

No map,

Experience informs a blurred present.

Take each step,

Inspired by hope,

Inspired by wonder,

Inspired by awe,

Mindful,

Aware of words and acts,

Fill with love and kindness,

Care for one another.

 

 

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