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Be the Peace in Your World — Life as a Garden

With so much aggression and turmoil in this world, try and practice peace everyday in your world.  If you can’t smooth that frown away and replace it with a smile, at least try and keep your anger down the best you can. Hard to do when you are not having a good day and feeling […]

Be the Peace in Your World — Life as a Garden

I came across this post about a week ago, accidnently closed it, and could not remember where it was located. Michelle shares a post that points to what we need most in this world: love and peace. The third paragraph resonates with me. Nature depends on diversity and cooperation to succeed. Without those, it falls into disarray.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes beautifully about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. We cannot have the extraordinary without the ordinary. We have to look deeper and understand there will always be mystery in what we are exploring.

I used phenomenology, specifically hermeneneutic phenomenology, in writing my disseration and it premised on mystery, making meaning, and a sense of wonder and awe as we explore particular phenomena. In many ways, each person is a phenomenologist as humans, by their nature, are meaning-making beings.

As a teacher, I used an activity called A Culture of Peace. In keeping with the Pema Chodron quote Michelle shared, I asked students for words and phrases to describe a culture of war and recorded answers on the board. It did not take long to exhaust the descriptions, usually no more than 10 minutes. I then asked them to desribe a culture of peace. The first time I used the activity, and it became a staple, I was left withy a sense of wonder how these junior high school students kept me moving for almost an hour filling up all the whiteboards. Even students who rarely shared, were excited. As we were borrowing someone’s classroom, we had to arbitrarily end the conversation and, as we walked back to our space, two young men commented they could have done that all day. The sense of wonder, joy, and fulfilment was palbable and extraordinary.

Several years ago, I used the same activity with an undergrad class of future teachers. It was surprised how unengaged and disinterested they were as a group. Perhaps, we become jaded in ways that are difficult to overcome, focused on end results and schedules rather than the joy of learning and sharing.

Below, is a picture of Mount Robson. We stop there on our trips to British Columbia and walk a bit. I am always left with a sense of wonder and, as we walk alongside the Robson River, I feel a sense of peace and gratitude for just being there.

I leave you with a quote from Gustavo Gutiérrez, a liberation theologist I am currently reading: “A gratuitous encounter is mysterious and draws us into itself.” Father Gutiérrez uses the word gratuitous to describe something we encounter, which is free and exists for it own sake for us to enjoy e.g., lilies of the field, a mountain, a loved one, etc. When I encounter the person, phenomena, event, etc. I am grateful for its existence.

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”― Franz Kafka How often have we told people what they want to hear, rather than speak our truth? During the process of writing my second book, there […]

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

Karen writes about how challenging it is to speak one’s truth. We often conflate truth with opinion. Truth is about how we each experience a particular phenomenon. It always stands in relationship to others and how they experience that phenomenon. Truth comes from the Germanic word tröth, which is taking a solemn pledge or undertaking. We enter into a relationship with someone and/or something e.g., marriage vows. Each peson comes to understand the meaning of the relationship and the pledge slightly differently.

We live in a world which is sometimes referred to as post-truth.. In my view, this just moral relativism dressed up differently and allows people to ignore the humanity of others who may disagree with them or are different than them. It becomes easy to say whatever we want to and claim we are being cancelled when someone disagrees. When used in this manner, truth becomes irrelevant and a buzz word.

Truth has taken on greater importance with the recent findings of unmarked graves at or close to residential schools for Indigenous children who were taken from their families and communities. Canada has a Truth and Reconciliation report related to the way Indienous peoples and communities were mistreated and that is a gentle word to describe the process. This includes the residential schools set up by the government and run by several christian demoninations. It is important to note truth comes before reconciliation. It is acknowledging the wrongs of the past, which is essential to reconciling, making whole and healing.

The reports logo is based on the 7 sacred teachings found in some form in North American Indigenous cultures: Truth, Humility, Honesty, Wisdom, Respect, Courage and Love. Although these teachings form the basis for North American Indigenous traditions and dialogue, one can find them, in some form, in other spiritiual teachings. They should form the ground on which we enter into relationships with others, the world, and what we hold sacred.

What draws me to Mary Oliver‘s poetry is the humility she invokes in questions she asks in certain poems. My favourite is The Summer Day where she concludes her questions with “what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Truth is preceded by humility and accepting their will always be questions we cannot answer. Truth needs the other sacred teachings as life opens up with questions we cannot answer and full grasp.

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 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?

An Expression of Gratitude —

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos- the trees, the clouds, everything.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

An Expression of Gratitude —

Espirational provides short posts that are often accompanied by lovely images. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh relates to my post, Deep, the other day. It was Bela‘s post I shared and expanded on a bit.

If we think of Earth and Nature as living bodies, we can expand this quote about health as an expression of gratitude to encompass more than just each of us individuals and human bodies. In moments of gratitude, we should ask who benefits from pillaging the Earth and Nature? We can also ask who is most harmed?

Currently, I am reading a book by Gustavo Gutiérrez and Paul Farmer. Father Gutiérrez is a pioneers of Liberation Theology and Paul Farmer is a medical doctor and medical anthropologist who helped found Partners in Health. Part of the reading is to write about leadership, education, and how hope can inform each of us as we emerge from COVID-19, if we actually do.

I hoped a crisis of this magnitude, plus the social and racial justice reckonings, might be a time to (re)imagine and (trans)form leadership and education. I am unsure this is what will happen, as the agenda of the very wealthy does not seek a “preferential option for the poor” and those most in need, inlcuding Gaia and Mother Nature. Yes, there is talk, but most of that is empty words and political theatre, posturing and peformativity for one’s constituents. It takes peope filled with courage and hope to stand up and say we need something different.

My hope rests in the next generation, the young people who are already making a mark. I hope they do not become disenchanged and discouraged. In this vein, I leave you with the following quote, attributed to Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse) days before he was killed.

Upon suffering beyond suffering:

The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.

I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.

In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.

Merry Christmas

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted and offer this poem.

Today, I read a short piece written by Parker Palmer that reminds me the miracle of Christmas is in the incarnation of God in human form. His essay reminds me of how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas provided a sense of wonder I could not explain and try not to as a rational adult.

Parker also posted on Facebook an event he experienced last year in Nogales Mexico at a house for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers is another way of saying they were seeking refuge. He points out Jesus was likely a person of colour. I take it one step further and point out he was a Jew and born into that faith. His birth was an ecunemical event, not a Christian one.

Carpenter guiding the way,

Expectant mother riding,

Backs straight; heads held high–

Donkey serving as regal carriage.

Seeking refuge from the night–

Giving birth in a stable,

Swathed and cradled in a manger,

Beasts welcoming the child.

Showering gifts upon us–

Returning each year,

Lighting the way–

Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”

Source of strength,

Our turn to humbly receive gifts,

Restocking spirits,

Rejuvenating souls.

Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian Indigenous singer and actor Tom Jackson. Most years, he tours at this time of year and helps food banks. In the midst of Covid, we each have to find ways to share with those in need.

He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecunemical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s remembrance of “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.” For me, it was also the food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.

Today’s Quote

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.

Spacious Sanctuary

Wendell Berry wrote a series of poems about Sabbath and taking time to let the spirit mend and heal. Wayne Muller wrote a book called Sabbath and provided a number of Sabbath practices from various traditions. After we read the book, we used practices and wrote reflections about how we each responded to them at a hospitality retreat.

How each find moments of peace and solace in a busy world is personal and reflects who we are as humans. For me, it is time spent walking, reading poetry, and writing. It is challenging as I need to adhere to a routine without being to rigid. What I observe, feel, hear, etc. needs to able to reach me in meaningful ways.

I wrote this poems as I entered a lengthy Sabbath period, taking time away from screens of various types.

Stepping aside–

Easing into spacious spaces;

Sensing stillness–

Unsquaring eyes,

Fidgeting less,

Being.

Resting–

Embracing wakefulness;

Emerging from frenetic hibernation–

Moving yet remaining still–

Enriching spirit,

Rediscovering lightness of being.

I took this picture on a hike in Glacier National Park. Nature just is. It exists for the sole purpose of existing. Humans need to do this more; just be in a given moment or time.

October’s Song

I originally wrote this on a rainy, warm day several years ago. It was a hard rain, but still 18 Cin Edmonton. Despite the warmth, we had a forecast of wet snow and coolling temperatures for that evening. In Alberta at this time of year, things can change weather-wise quite suddenly.

The forecast is for above-average temperatures for another week. Even then, it is not cooling appreciably. Instead, we will have rain as a possibility.  Most trees still have an abundance of leaves, although they are turning colours.

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving as crops are harvested and stored by mid-October. It is not a sure thing, but that is the premise. The agrarian roots of Canada are deep, so the tradition of an October Thanksgiving remains.

Nature singing,

Whispering–

Painting the world anew.

Harvest gathering.,

Storing bounty–

Hearth calling.

Gathering,

Joining hands;

Bowing heads.

October arriving,

Thanking, sharing, celebrating–

Readying for winter’s respite.

 

 

I took this picture in Fairmount Hot Springs a couple of years ago. It was Thanksgiving weekend and it snowed on our way back. You can see the colours have changed in the distance and the mist over Columbia Lake.

Listening

I began to write this poem after a long and tiring week. Sometimes, when I step back from the visceral nature of my emotions, postive and negative, I find a kernel to prompt writing, thinking, and acting.

Too often, I find myself talking when I should be listening. This includes listening to me, and, more importantly, listening to those whose stories are silenced in unjust ways. I think those two forms of listening go hand-in-hand. Not listening to others is often a product of being so busy with the noise of my own life. When I listen from the heart, I hear words anew.

Rich stories silenced–

Seeking just spaces,

Sharing and healing;

To speak freely.

Listening deeply–

Sadly, stories unheard,

Of being oppressed;

Shunted to the margins.

Listening with heart–

Leaning into stories,

With grace and humility,

Hearing for the first time.

Am I ready to act?

Listening, hearing–

But, without doing;

(In)justice remains.

I listen to the blues, gospel, and jazz most of my life. When it comes to the blues, gospel, and jazz music I am aware of the privilege I experience and do not take it for granted.  As a Canadian, I attended concerts, because African-American performers came to Canada. They had access to venues I could attend here that they did not have in their own country.

Today, I heard Mavis Staples (on her latest album) singing and it resonated. For real and just change to emerge, I must be willing to listen and change the things I can.  When I listen to the blues and gospel music, particularlyperformed by African-American women, there is an undercurrent for meaningful and just change in the world.

Ongoing Quest

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.

transforming–

ongoing quest,

seeking vision,

unearthing a better, truer self–

digging deep,

resting in my heart.

transforming–

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.

Medicine Wheel

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–

Replenishing.

Here,

Feeling welcomed–

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.”

Enriching alchemy–

Inspiring magic.

Seeking peace,

Speaking truth to power.

I took the picture on Bowen Island and began to write the poem.

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