Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Freedom’

A Seder? Today??

Today we will be attending a family Passover Seder, even though it’s not quite Passover. This family gathering is a large one, about fifty people, so scheduling can be tricky. At the home of a cousin, all ages will gather, from infants to great-grandparents, for a beautiful and joyous ritual meal remembering the Exodus; the themes of deliverance, humility, gratitude, liberation, and freedom; always a political dimension, usually expounded upon by one of the uncles; delicious food; much love. And a place for Elijah.

The children play a major part, reading from the Haggadah, and singing songs.  Children are very important on this holiday: “l’dor va-dor,” “from generation to generation.”

All the items on the ritual dinner plate have meanings associated with the holiday. The one most people are familiar with is the matzah, the unleavened bread. And there is much lifting of the cup of wine. The home becomes a sanctuary, a place for expressing gratitude, love, and celebration.

Passover blessings!

Up-Close and Natural

Because we are part of the natural world, our earthly story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, or a profound feeling of belonging. What is happening now outside your window? As I look out, I see that once again a soft blanket of white covers the ground and rooftops. The new snow clings to the tree branches, creating a fairyland in the ravine behind my house. Once again, the world has been reborn.

Today I will take a walk and look for messages. These messages may take the form of a sharp cold scent on the breeze; the sound of some water trickling beneath the snow; bird calls; animal tracks in the snow; the soft kiss of snowflakes on my face; the winter light, with its gray, blue, and sepia shadows; the shape of the bare tree branches against the white sky. My walk will be different from any other time, and though the place may be familiar, it will be new.

To dive even deeper, I may take out my loupe, a lens that goes with me everywhere, nestled in its tiny, wine-colored pouch. It allows me to see a world that is usually hidden from our everyday eyes. Through the loupe, a tiny area becomes an entire world from an insect’s point of view, evoking images, memories, and inspiring art and poetry.

We will do this together, looking for messages, exploring the outer world up close, seeing what that experience evokes in our inner worlds. The listing with the date and time for this gathering will appear on the Services / Gatherings page of this blog.

A poem that says it all

Born innocent, one

– that’s I –

strives hard to become

an adult, no longer childish,

worldly-wise

in one’s art, one’s love, one’s life . . .

Then discovers:

that no one ever

becomes an adult,

becomes either

delightfully childlike

or pitifully juvenile . . .

Discovers:

one’s art to be outside the art game

one’s faith outside the religious game

one’s love outside the sex game

Discovers:

one’s own little song

and dares to sing it

in all variations,

unsuited as it may be

for mass communication . . .

For perhaps

here and there

someone will hear it

and listen

and know

and say

Ah!
YES!

From Art as a Way: A Return to the Spiritual Roots, Frederick Franck, New York: Crossroad, 1981

Depths

A number of years ago I attended  a gathering with Jean Houston. She talked about the special social responsibility of people over fifty years of age, because elders have a life-time of experience and have “access to the depths.”

What depths are these? I think of the Underworld, understood in many ways by different cultures. In myth, the Underworld, or Otherworld, is sometimes a place one travels not just after death, but during life. It is very dangerous, and sometimes beautiful. Time has a different quality there; many years can pass in the outside world while one is entranced and / or challenged in the Otherworld. If one is able to return to this life again, it is with a gift or gifts, which are to be shared with others.

As people who have experienced the depths of life, those over fifty who approach life consciously can see the larger picture. We have visited the Underworlds of life, and returned after those experiences of profound loss and grief, the “innering” work of depression, or deep pain; we have explored the Otherworlds of enchantment, beauty, grace and joy.  As pilgrims returning from the depths, we can bring forward new ways of being in our world, new possibilities.

Many systems are in transition now: planetary, political, personal. Think of the “transition” phase of giving birth: the time when you want to call the whole thing off because it is all too difficult and overwhelming. That phase arrives just before the final stage of birthing, the breakthrough, when we push new life into the world. This can be the birth of ideas, creativity, and action. The elder years present a time for a different kind of birthing.

Accessing the depths requires inner space, a cultivation of imagination, and a small community in which to share, nurture, and celebrate the process of integrating our Underworldly and Otherworldly life experiences. You may already belong to a circle of friends which serves this growing-edge purpose.  Elder-wisdom. It’s a powerful time to be coming of age, drawing strength and knowledge from our depths, moving into the wisdom stage of our lives, and sharing those gifts.

Into the Wild

In the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Hobbits asked Strider where they were going together, after they left the inn called The Prancing Pony, he answered, “Into the wild.”  In that tale they went off the path, across wild country to avoid confronting the evil dark riders.

My forays off the path in the wild have not been nearly that exciting (there was one close encounter with a low-swooping owl at dusk – hardly a dark rider, but it got my attention). I could probably think of other outdoor adventures.  But the wild part of my mind, my inner life, is another story: it feeds my imagination. “Wild” can mean many things. Right now I think one of the wildest places on the planet (in a sad and tragic sense) is in Haiti: the wildness of catastrophe.

Today I found myself reading an online sermon entitled “Finding Wild Space.” Because I’m intrigued by wild places, inner and outer, the title caught my attention immediately.  The writer of that sermon, Rev.  Anne Sutherland Howard, had a different take on “wild.”  She wrote, “Wild space is that part in each one of us that does not fit our consumer culture’s definition of the good life. Here’s how it works: Imagine a circle. Within that circle is the dominant cultural model: white, male, middle-class, heterosexual, educated, able-bodied, Western, successful. Now, put your own model of yourself over that circle. Some parts may fit, maybe almost all, some may be different. The part of us that falls outside the conventional circle is our wild space. The parts that do not fit may be obvious: race or sex or physical characteristic. Other parts that do not match up with the successful conventional model may not be so obvious to others: surviving the death of a loved one, a lost job, the struggle with addiction or depression, the vague disappointment about not “making it,” or our refusal to buy into the conventional model. Anything that causes us to question the definition of success is our wild space.”

This passage got me thinking about the choices I’ve made that may have made me seem less than successful, according to the writer’s definition. I’ve never earned very much money. I’m a woman. And I’m outside the conventional model in many life-style choices.  Yet living at the edge is where I’ve always been most comfortable. In that space, I am closer to possibility, creativity, and very interesting people and ideas.

What is your wild space? And what does it mean in your life?

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The entire text of “Finding Wild Space,” by Rev. Anne Sutherland Howard, may be found at Day 1, http://day1.org/1679-finding_wild_space . The passage here was reprinted with the permission of Day 1.

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