“My love is on the high seas”

On a quiet evening at the beginning of May,
When the bat was in the skies,
I heard a tearful young maiden

Singing beneath the shadow of the green branches…”
– “
Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain,”
as arranged by Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever & Iain MacDonald

img_2209Julie Fowlis performs a traditional Gaelic tune about being parted, lost love, fear, grief, and joy. It has a magical, mystical quality to it.

My daughter, a mom, visual artist and illustrator (who is often at home caring for her daughters as her partner – and true love – travels), was inspired. She collaborated with Julie to create this video – “Tha mo ghaol air àird a’ chuain” or “My love is on the high seas.”

img_2203I love the air of mysteriousness and both the fear and love of this woman set side-by-side. It captures the longing we feel when our hearts are reaching out to what is most dear for us…but still we can’t quite “touch” it. Finally, the love and longing manifest into reality – from darkness, joy emerges. Her true love touches her hand and the spells of grief and longing are broken at last. Joyful reunion begins.

Life is like that sometimes and we treasure the miracles that are beyond words. These are the tales that only music and art can help us to capture and even then only partially.

img_2206Most of us know the feeling. Some reunions we experience in full now, others we still long and wait for – holding vigil in our hearts. But hope continues. We can feel the presence and connection that love provides in life and beyond. We know the truth: though we can’t always see it, love abides and lives.

Hope you enjoy it. Share it if you do!

(Shared with permission of Julie Fowlis and Courtney O’Connell Carlson.)
“Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain” English/Gaelic Lyrics and information

Courtney O’Connell Carlson illustration website

Starting Fresh

Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
– 
Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179

Hildegard-mandalaIn some spiritual traditions, there is a time of reflection that precedes the start of spring. In the Christian tradition, it is linked to Lent and Easter – the time of wandering in the desert – facing our dark side – and resurrection. In rituals surrounding the new and full moon, many people use the Full Moon as a time to acknowledge and let go of behaviors or beliefs which no longer serve our best interest. The New Moon is a time to invite in new behaviors, beliefs, or manifestations which we are ready now to embrace.

For me, one obstacle that often gets in my way is my attitude toward myself – in the spring or any other time. Do you know what I mean?

I let so many things interfere with a loving relationship with myself. For instance, I:

…think it is my job to take care of and give love to everyone else before I tend to Me;
…haven’t yet forgiven myself for hurting others or making mistakes in my life;
…am self-conscious because I am poignantly aware of my flaws;
…think that it is my job to make the toxic people who have hurt me feel okay, too;
…believe that if I’m not perfect, that makes me bad;
…essentially, drive myself nuts.

This is all such craziness brought on by the self (small “s”). My higher Self knows that I need to:

…love myself first (fill the inner well), so that I have some inner resources to share when I choose to do so;
…love myself, forgive myself, have compassion for myself – treat myself as I would treat my very best friend;
…get over thinking so much about the little self, the ego-driven self. Who really cares about my flaws? Only me. (And if someone does care about them… Oh well. That’s their deal.)
…love myself by setting boundaries and saying, “No” to those who are toxic to my spirit and soul – lovingly, but firmly, and without guilt;
…get over perfectionism. Who wants to be around a perfect person anyway? Not me. I want real, nitty, gritty friends and neighbors who have been through the mill, down through the dark valley, and back again; who laugh at their flaws, struggle, and have compassion for the journey. It can be rough! And if we don’t have a sense of humor and humility, we will end up bitter, brittle, and broken.
…give ourselves a break, with the help of God/Goddess, the Universe, friends, our spiritual guides and helpers.

So here’s what I’m doing this spring. I’m soaking in the Love. Try it! Take some time to absorb beauty, to allow love (from you, others, the Universe, God, Spirit) to permeate your molecules, to feel connection with Nature, to soak in the tub and release toxins, and begin to open to something new. Allow the wind of spirit to blow through your soul and clear out all of those dark, cobwebby corners. Then, open to new beginnings – whatever that means to you. Seek soul support. Share your light wherever you go. And allow the Sacred to tend those tender seeds and sprouts and bring new growth.

Tips on Sanity in an Insane World

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

– William Wordsworth

These are largely “notes to myself” or my gratitude list. What helps me today after I do my morning scan through Twitter and Facebook and digest headlines? I’m curious, too, what is helping you? Let’s share our wisdom!

Things that help me:

  • Decaf coffee & tea.
  • Balanced diet (boring, I know, but of great benefit. Very grounding. Includes dark chocolate.)
  • Exercise! Walking outside or yoga or even the treadmill at the gym, in a pinch.
  • Reading books with perspective and humor (vs. social media.) (Just read “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson very slowly. Good for several laughs a day.)
  • Babysitting a 5 year old, or hanging out with 10 and 12 year olds – keeps one in the present in a demanding and different sort of way. 🙂
  • Knowing that I’m signed up for an all day meditation workshop in Boulder in a few
    weeks with one of my favorite teachers – holds the prospect of being fully centered for a whole day!
  • Writing.
  • Talking with trusted friends about something – anything – that means something other than politics. Helps get the heart center tuned up and moving in the right direction.
  • Laughing.
  • Anything that helps to let go of compulsive activity, even for a few hours. I hosted a family birthday party a week ago and that put me in a great mood – channeling creativity for a full day. hoosier-pass
  • Singing or listening to music.
  • Short road trip deeper into nature. REALLY fun around here.
  • Knowing I’ve done some small thing to be connected to the larger group of people making a positive difference in the world – even if it is just posting joyful art on social media. It makes me smile…and one or two others, also.
  • It may be unhealthy, but I vent my frustrations on Twitter. I live in an isolated area and I have my tiny little rant-of-the-day via reposts that gets it (frustration) all out of my system, sort of. As long as I move on to the list above for the remains of the day. There’s probably a better method for this…do let me know….

Would truly love to hear your list! Send via comments!

Love & blessings, Karen

Back to Basics: Who do we stand with?

“Speak for those who cannot speak;
seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.”
– Proverbs 31:8 (ISV)

interfaith-symbols

Everybody has their point of reference – a family, a community from which they discover their perspective. Sometimes we stay the same as our original family or group; other times, our perspectives are reactions against the way we’ve been raised; and sometimes we take what our families have given us and put our own spin on it. For the most part, I’m in the latter category. (Image source: http://www.peacemonger.org)

Lately, the world has been dividing itself into categories. So, who do you identify with? What categories do you fall in? Mine are:

+ Progressive Christian
+ Interfaith spirituality/eclectic Universalist beliefs
+ According to a conservative definition, I think I fall into the “hippie” category (which is somewhat hilarious – a truly boring hippie)
+ Feminist (prayerfully, peacefully, lovingly)
+ Nature lover/environmentalist (with some realism, some idealism)
+ Celebrate diverse humanity – I believe we are better humans when we embrace lots of differences – racial diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity, diverse expressions of gender and sexual preferences, diversity of body size/shape, religious diversity and so on and so forth….

I could go on, but you get the picture. So, when certain groups are targeted and under fire, who do you stand up with and for?  What kind of oppression and persecution gets you so riled up that you get off your couch and march/make a phone call/write a letter/join a group?

As a long-time person of faith, a progressive Christian minister, the go-to phrases that come to mind during times of crisis are well known: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Judeo-Christian tradition is filled with reminders to never oppress, always to welcome “foreigners” or strangers, because we were once strangers ourselves. And there is that lovely passage from the old King James bible, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I believe this is reminding us that there is God-light in every person and we dare not turn away people based on our own fear of differences – we have no idea how precious that person is to the Divine (or how sacred to others).

So, I guess I arrive at a place where my job is to stand up to oppressors for any human being who is being unjustly treated. Of all the values taught in each world religion and for anyone claiming to be Christian, the highest value is Love. To use the words of Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or any of our great spiritual leaders to do harm or to persecute is the greatest perversion of the Truth. So, we must revive an old saying and, “Speak the Truth to Power with Love.” Say it, sing it, paint it, dance it, mail it, phone it, sculpt it, shout it. But do it for love (not anger or hate). Stand up.

we-all-belong-here-poster

Note: Downloadable poster or coloring book may be found here.

A place for anger…

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anger and outrage have a place at the table – they are motivating, they help us set boundaries and say when enough is enough. But hatred is different. Hatred excludes. Hatred says “I’m in, you’re out” based on whatever we choose. We set the rules.

Self-righteous indignation can help us remember who we are, what we stand for. But when it becomes a disguise for hatred, we need to stop.

I recently read tweet from a respected progressive theologian who was trashing people for switching sides and joining #resist. Huh? What? I do not get that at all.

Isn’t that what we want? For people to awaken from entrenched positions and see reality and truth seems like the goal to me. I love it when someone’s narrow beliefs are shaken and they broaden rather than narrowing further still.

If I’m missing something here, please help me to understand. But if we scream or hurl insults at those whose eyes are opened by our efforts, who are we? What have we become?

Spread the love, friends. 💜💜💜.

Be Impeccable

From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

“Agreement One: I am impeccable with my words. I am loving to myself and others – I let go of fear.”

From the Dalai Lama:

“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstance they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”

And

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Do you have other “words from the wise” to add?

img_1059

A SPIRITUAL TOOLBOX for TURBULENT TIMES

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive [God] to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
– Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, 1952.

It is possible to come to each day as grounded, loving people, who are forces for hope even though the world may seem uncentered, unkind or even hateful. Here are seven tools:

candleTool 1: SELF LOVE – When you are thrown off course, listen to the emotions that arise inside you.  Use your anger as a messenger –  listen to it and allow it to tell you what you need at that moment to be whole, to be safe. Do what you need to do. Listen to your fear and adjust your sense of safety by utilizing your own energy and self-love. You can give yourself this gift of wholeness and safety by treating each emotion with loving care and compassion. If you just stuff your feelings down, that isn’t going to work for long. By attending to our inner world, we will be able to be calm observers rather than haters and bring a positive energy to our efforts.

Tool 2: SPIRITUAL SUPPORT – (An obvious one…) Whatever your sense of God, the Sacred, Higher Concept or Higher Power in the Universe, turn to this Source when your perspective becomes lost and you feel rattled (often many times per day). Carry the resources with you that you need to support you in doing this. If you can, start your day with a positive Intention, prayer, or affirmation and end the day with gratitude.

Tool 3: GROUPS – If at all possible, form small groups in which to share your Truth, fears, hopes, brokenness. Find perspective. Then develop your Intentions for positive action. Enjoy this time of community. Enjoy some laughter together, share some food – nourish your hearts and souls.

Tool 4: SELF CARE! Days or hours “off” from saving the world. Have some fun, get out into nature, go shopping, dance, enjoy your favorite movie or people or meal.  Playtime is essential to the Soul.

Tool 5: SMALL STEPS – Do what you can do to be a positive force for change in the world. Hook up with established groups and organizations to be of support. If all you do today to make a difference is offer love, affirmation and support to someone you know who is out there doing things, that is enough.FullSizeRender (9)

Tool 6: CREATIVITY, EXERCISE & MUSIC – Color, paint, write poetry, write stories, create a vision board, dance, walk, run, do yoga or Tai Chi, sing, play an instrument,  listen to or create music. All of these connect us with our Higher Selves and our Source. Share your creations with the world.

Tool 7: ALL IS WELL – It is difficult to remember, but it is the Truth of all faith traditions. There is something more (God, the Sacred, the Universe) that holds us – a spiritual reality that is beyond what we can see today. Remember these words from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:

“You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

This is just the beginning. There is a long road ahead. Pace yourself! Take it one joyful, loving step at a time and, remember, as Dame Julian of Norwich once said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Love & blessings, Karen

Going Out in a Blaze of Glory

IMG_8997We went from blazing hot, full-steam summer to cool, gray fall weather overnight. Throughout all the (extremely short) summer, I’ve been feeling that I wasn’t in my usual inward mode, I have been outwardly focused. I haven’t been reflective, meditative, thoughtful – I’ve been active. We’ve pruned, planted, nurtured, watered, weeded, cleaned, cooked, entertained, flown kites, picnicked, played, visited, driven, hiked, paraded, organized. It was a season of busy-ness. And that’s what summer is all about, right? I couldn’t even be held inside my kitchen – we barbecued at every opportunity (or better yet, ate somewhere else – preferably on a patio). We made some new friends and connected with treasured friends and family.

For someone who had focused energy inward for months, it was a dramatic energetic shift. And now, suddenly, here we are and it is raining. Not a summer storm, it is gray and drizzly – something we’ve prayed for, but now that it’s here, it is sad. The party is over. The kids started school last week. For mountain-dwelling, semi-retired folks we know what this means.

It means we’ll have some spectacular blazing gold weeks and chances to watch the leaves fall. It means there will be moments of play out in nature – some blissful, crisp hikes with gorgeous autumn light. It means tucking away the summer growth, trimming back, turning over, covering up. And it means more silence, more quiet moments, more days looking out but staying in.

IMG_9011I’m going to fight this a bit. I can feel it. I’m going to fantasize about how I might make winter (the inevitable next thought) more like summer. But as they say, “Resistance is futile.” I will be assimilated. I will be swept along by the cosmic dance, the rhythm of the seasons. You will, too. It probably won’t happen without some grief and a bit of a fight.

Perhaps instead of protest, instead of throwing a collective hissy fit, we could try to turn the seasonal gods on their heads like Olympic wrestlers. Our surprise move could be to savor the process instead of fighting, and to observe each magnificent moment. Take every raindrop as a gift, each opportunity to warm up by the fire as a treasured relief.
And instead of go, go, go, we can just BE in each moment. We can snuggle up in a blanket or put on a rainjacket and take a stroll through the neighborhood. We can put the barbecue away and get out the slow cooker.

IMG_9018Okay, I’m talking myself into it. This could (possibly) work. Let me know how you do.

P.S. Remember hot cocoa with cayenne. And hot baths.

 

 

 

God is In*

Looking outI’ve spent a good deal of my professional life playing with “how we share our spiritual lives with children.” My own children, with very different approaches to life and varied learning styles, were often my teachers. “Boring!” was often the comment after a morning at church.

I am also enough of an overgrown adolescent that I quickly glaze over when traditional, rote styles of teaching are used. I am frequently as uninspired as they are. Experiencing God, the Sacred, should not be boring. By definition, the Sacred stops us in our tracks, and causes to do strange things: remove our shoes, drop to the ground, bow our heads, touch our hearts, stand in wonder, or sing with joy. In some cases, the presence of the Sacred in our lives changes everything – things look different, sound different, and we, in turn, act differently when the Holy blows through our lives.

Two of my granddaughters are off for their first week of camp right now. Their family practices mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. My daughter teaches “Sunday school” at a local Buddhist monastery where they attend. The camp they are attending is called “IdRaHaJe” – short for “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Should be an interesting week. But they’ll be sleeping in tepees under the stars, doing ropes courses, swimming, singing, riding horses, you name it. They’ll be encountering the Sacred one way or another. Thich Nhat Hanh would love this place – but it might be a bit loud for his taste.

I find the Sacred all over during summertime and so do kids. It is seldom that we need to talk about it. We live the experience. These days, I find the Sacred when I’m hiking, weeding our hillside or feel a crisp breeze. The sacred surprises me in a strain of music, a grandchild’s joy, and peace that arrives even though my instinct is to latch on to anger or pain.

My daughter is less discriminating than I am about Christian traditions. I’m fussy. It took me a year to find a church I was comfortable attending (and I tried out the Buddhist community, the non-dual philosophy community, some of the shamanic and energy groups, too). My daughter has close friends who are mainline Protestant, Mormon, and Evangelical Christian. I do, too, but I’m quite aware of our “differences”; she isn’t so much. My husband is kind of like her in that respect – give him a short sermon, a decent choir, kind people, and organist who isn’t out to shake the rafters and he’s content…or he’s happy to not go at all.

I, on the other hand, am always longing for a spiritual community of somewhat like-minded folks who can support me on my journey and with whom I can share the task of carrying love and compassion into the world. But like I said: I’m picky.

It is funny, though, where I actually landed and found a spiritual home – after all that searching and deliberation. It wasn’t in a group of enlightened folk with perfected spiritual practices, nor in a place with a gorgeous facility on a high mountaintop. No rock-star preachers or fancy, high-tech sanctuaries for me, I guess. Who knew?

pride parade deer park umc

It turns out what I was longing for was a group of people who were authentic and down-to-earth…and imperfect like me. So I’m hanging out in a tiny, fairly traditional, progressive church on Sunday mornings (one that honors all paths to the Sacred) and I love it. They let us help wash the coffee hour dishes and hand out bulletins and we feel at home.

In the end, it isn’t about labels, philosophies, or who’s in and who’s out of our spiritual tribe. Hopefully, my granddaughters are finding that, too, as they sing, ride, create, shout, praise, and splash this week. In the best of all worlds, we find that everyone is “in” our Sacred tribe.

(*The song, “God Is In” by Billy Jonas was discovered by one of our beloved students on a youth service trip to Alamosa, CO to serve at San Luis Valley Habitat and La Puente Home.  It became the year’s theme song 🙂 This blogpost reminded me of that trip.)