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Tag Archives: spirituality

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

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Joining the Circus

Yesterday, this poem by Mark Nepo found me. I was checking some emails and a site I subscribe to had this poem on it.

For the first time in 30 years, I will not teach and/or learn in formal way this fall. It crept up on me. Yes, I want to teach. I prefer that to joining a circus. In a sense, I am joining the circus. The theme of the poem is how to deal with ups and downs in life. I applied at several universities and received one interview, but came up short.

My challenge is what will we I do in lieu of teaching in some conventional way? As Nepo says, I ready to kiss anything as I hover like a mystical molecule between one stage and another. Like the dozen beginners, I am learning how to juggle and have to begin somewhere.

Each day, I focus on reading and writing and hope to publish in academic journals.  A colleague suggested I write and shed a different light on teaching. As well, I may take some of my poetry and bundle it together in a book. Perhaps, my smile will be so magical I will asked to teach something I did not expect.

I just saw a handwritten note from

Galileo. He was under house arrest

for believing we’re not the center of

everything. Now behind me, in the park,

a dozen beginners, of all ages, learning how

to juggle. We have to start somewhere. The

young man who’s so magical at this is asked

to instruct. He smiles, “You have to keep

trying. Just not the same thing.” Earlier,

I leaned over a letter from Lincoln to a

dead soldier’s mother. This, just weeks

after losing Susan’s mother, sweet

Eleanor. I keep saying her name to

strangers. You see, we all have to

juggle joy and sorrow. Not to do it

well—we always drop something—but

when the up and down of life are

leaving one hand and not yet land-

ing in the other, then we glow, like

a mystical molecule hovering between

birth and death, ready to kiss anything.

 

Pointers to Non-Duality

I am back to post. I am reading and writing. I am working to intersect hermeneutic phenomenology, which I used as my research methodology for my dissertation and the method of currere. The latter is an autobiographical method, in part, based on existential philosophy to explore curriculum through one’s lived-experience. As well, it uses Freudian psychoanalytic theory as part of its foundations. It is this latter aspect I am contrasting with hermeneutic phenomenology as both are interpretive methods.

I moved to radical hermeneutics, linking it with my writing. What I found is there is an overlap with poetry and non-duality.

Bill Pinar developed the method of currere and used Zen philosophy as a third leg for the method. The voice in hermeneutics is poetic, seeking to understand the world in non-dualistic ways and subvert binary thinking.  As I looked for a poem, I found this one by Wu Hsin.

When I am mindful and present to the world in its past, present, and future moments the text I live comes to life with new meaning.

Just as the honey is not sweetness,

The words of Wu Hsin are not

The truth.

However, time spent with these words is like

The aftermath of rain.

In due course, a sprouting of

Understanding will occur and

Will bear fruit at a pace

Outside of one’s control.

Saint Francis and the Sow

This poem by Galway Kinnel reminds me everyone is blooming. There is something hidden inside of us we cannot fully know and understand. It is the inner voice that calls us to what we are fully human to do.

It is essential to be mindful and attentive to that voice and find moments of silence. Unlike the sow, humans are able to pause and reflect, pray and listen to the response. Having said this, it is not something that is intuitive and instinctual. It is something we have to remind our self of from time to time.

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

Sand Castles

Children live in each moment. Their inexperience allows them to be in a world that seems novel. They build sand castles in those moments. As adults we think we lose that ability to build our sand castles.

Being mindful and present to the world and others is a way of building sand castles, perhaps in some metaphoric way. How can I think about this person and that thing differently? How do I bring less suffering and pain to the world in understanding “differences make a difference?” Unlike children, adults often understand differences as threats.

It reminds me of Tolstoy‘s quote: “if you want to be happy, be.”

A child, playing in sand,

Building sand castles,

Absorbed in that moment.

The world is immediate,

Demanding one be present,

To embedded in this very moment.

As a child,

We know nothing different,

Our castles are real and momentous.

To outgrow our castles,

That is a tragedy,

To lose being mind(ful).

Let me return to that world,

To build castles in the sand,

As only a child can.

When I taught, the Grade 7 students built chairs for Science class. A criterion was they had to use recycled materials. They always built terrific chairs with little help from adults.

Anarchy

I felt a touch of sadness the last few days of school. I think it goes back to my first year teaching. The students told me they wanted school to continue into the summer. My last year teaching students sent me off with the message it was not the content that was meaningful, but the life lessons they learned.

Etymologically, anarchy comes from repeatedly new beginnings. Thought of that way, each new beginning is an opportunity to dance.

Rumi said “We rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing to it nevertheless,
directed by the one who teaches us, the pure joy of the sun, our music master.” New beginnings are a dance that we do not always hear the music to.

As an end draws near,

Beginnings emerge,

In the anarchy of living.

One is drawn,

Not by the familiar,

By mystery.

In silent moments,

Stillness calls,

Reaching deep into one’s soul.

In silent moments,

The unseen radiates,

Touching one’s spirit.

Mystery lurks,

Pointing the way,

Deep wonder draws one forward.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Today is a special day in our lives. 41 years ago, Kathy and I were married. We chose The Prayer of St. Francis was one of our readings and have a simple plaque on our bedroom wall of the prayer.

The prayer is a reminder of how we affect the world, beginning with those closest to us. It is a reminder of how being mindful and present are essential in relationships.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

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