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Tag Archives: spirituality

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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Silver Star

When I looked for a poem, this one by William Stafford found me. Mountains appear to be immovable and unchangeable, yet as people do they do so without immediate notice. Yet, when we revisit them, we realize the changes that occurred.

In the case of teachers, Parker Palmer speaks about asking the question “who is the self who teaches?” We are each teachers in our own particular ways, so asking this question is essential. We often overlook this question in pursuit of easier to answer questions about the what, when, where, why, and how.

When we ask who we are, we explore the values that anchor us in living life. In times of crisis, those values guide us and help us through those tough times. Attending to them in mindful ways each day as a gardener would her/his garden grounds us in them in times of real need. They have spiritual meaning that come to life in living and expressing them daily through who we are as a human being.

If we serve our values well, “we will hear the world say, ‘Well done.'” The patience of living a good life, which in Aristotle‘s terms, is indefinable will be the reward. Like a mountain guiding us on our journey, the values we live and express guide us and others on a shared journey.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away, when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

Fluent

I am on the road the next two days so I am tired at the end of relatively long day. John O’ Donohue‘s poetry has a light feel to it, much like a small river that flows easily along its way.

He often wrote blessings and a blessing is something that catches us by surprise. It unfolds in surprising ways, never taking the same path twice. Like the river and, as expressed by Heraclitus in his quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

We cannot live the same moment twice, because we cannot return to it and, even if we could, we would not be the same person. We would return with an understanding of what it meant to step in the river in the first place.

The beauty of living is filled with the richness of uncertainty and complexity. The best we can expect is to be mindful of each moment as we live in it and as it unfolds.

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

We took this picture several years at Lundbreck Falls. Today, I drove past them and, like me, the river has changed.

For the Children

Gary Snyder wrote this beautiful poem about children being adult’s saving grace in the world. What is new fascinates and they wonder about the newness. For a small child, most of what they encounter is new and calls out to the child to explore and wonder over it.

There is zen and mystical quality to the poem with a reference to meeting in peace somewhere in the future. The essential part of peace is staying together, learning the flowers, and going lightly.

It is not learning about flowers, but learning flowers and going lightly, which I think will take a different way of teaching. This is not a new way of teaching. Instead, it is more likely we have forgotten it, being together and living gently in a world that only has so much to offer us.

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light.

“Natural objects should be sought and seen as they are, not to suit observers, but respectfully as if they were divine beings.” — Goethe

I took this picture several years ago as I drove through Jasper National Park. It was late August before the rutting began, but the bulls were trying to assert dominance. Despite this, people ran into the ditch and talking loudly. I kept my distance and got some great shots from about 100 feet away. As Gary Snyder counseled, I went light.

Character of Teaching

While having tea in a small coffee shop I inhabit, I jotted down the beginnings of a poem.

A phrase that repeated itself in my dissertation and the interviews was “differences make a difference.” When I began teaching, people asked “what made me go into teaching, particularly at 32 years of age.” It was the sentiment that I might make a difference, maybe not for every student, but for some. It reminds me of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song: Teach Your Children Well, but it is more than teaching. It is serving them and whatever I do well.

Someday, whether we are teachers or not, we feel a desire to be lost. Responsibilities weigh on us whether we are parents, at our work, partners in a relationship, etc. In our relationships with the weight of responsibilities, something calls us each back. It is more of a whisper. It can only belong to each of us. Teaching was this way for me.

I experience a desire to be lost,

Weighing down on me,

Responsibilities cloak me like a vapour

Covering me with their many coats,

They arrive without being asked.

From the multitude, one desire arises;

A clarion call from the cosmos,

It carresses my soul;

It whispers “be useful and kind.”

A flower sharing its pollen,

Spread on the wings of others;

Teach what is possible–

What is possible of each of us?

Save them from glory seekers and profiteers;

Gently, send them away

Pollinating a new generation,

Flowering anew with compassion,

Rejoice as they float around the corner,

Knowing not what they will sow,

Trusting your character.

I took this picture on the upper reaches of the Fraser River. Around the corner from Kathy, the river narrows quickly and there is a waterfall.

There was a time I would reject those

Ibn ‘Arabi wrote “My religion is love. Whichever the route love’s caravan shall take, That shall be the path of my faith.” He speaks of a journey and shared path.

I recalled the statement attributed to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

When we reject others because of ethnicity, religion, skin colour, politics, gender, etc, we lose sight of what makes us human, our common humanity. This humanity is deeper than any of the markers we have that identify and group us.

Shunryu Suzuki compared mindfulness to a compassionate space that expands and contracts depending on the needs of the moment and the people we share that space. When we reach out to others, we acknowledge we are pilgrims on a shared journey where we speak for and on behalf of each other.

There was a time I would reject those
who were not my faith.
But now, my heart has grown capable
of taking on all forms.
It is a pasture for gazelles,
An abbey for monks.
A table for the Torah.
Kaaba for the pilgrim.
My religion is love.
Whichever the route love’s caravan shall take,
That shall be the path of my faith.

I took this picture in Jasper National Park. Kathy and I walked for several hours on this path just enjoying being there.

i thank You God for this most amazing

When I taught, I used e. e. cummings not just during poetry lessons, but to point out to students we did not always have to follow rules when writing. Following Cummings’ writing, I told students to get thoughts down on paper and we could edit later.

Cummings did not break rules of writing in his poetry. As we see in the first line of this poem, he capitalized two words.

I took the message as opening my eyes and ears to the world around me. As I walked this morning, I noticed birds chirping. One scrambled to hide under a truck parked along the street. In another place, there was a smell of something rotting, maybe someone fertilizing. The wind was chilly, but, when the sun emerged from hiding, i warmed me.

The sounds, sights, smells, touches of the world awaken my senses on those walks. They are like the flow of water I hear from a distance as I approach the river that tumbles over the edge. When I am mindful, I sense nature in a fuller way.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

We took this picture in Yellowstone.

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