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Archive for the awe and wonder Category

The heart of your story

allison 2
Photographer: Allison Fowles

“I suppose the other thing too many forget is that we were all stories once, each and every one of us. And we remain stories. But too often we allow those stories to grow banal, or cruel or unconnected to each other.We allow the stories to continue, but they no longer have a heart. They no longer sustain us.”
― Charles de Lint, The Onion Girl

What sustains you? What gives your life meaning? Where is the heart in your story?

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Heres to Your Wild and Precious Day

Alphonse osbert muse at sunrise

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Heres to your wild and precious day..

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To Love and to Feast on Your Life

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How easy it is to judge ourselves, so much more difficult to unconditionally love the struggling imperfect selves that we are. And yet, I have come to believe that this is our most essential task to love. To not only love others, but to love the unique, one of a kind spirit that came into the world as you. And to love the troubled but still beautiful world that took you in.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the others welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Wolcott

Imagine how your life would be different if just for today you feasted on your life.

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Becoming Holy: Three Questions to Ask Each Day

frampton Saint Dorothy

I listened to a talk by Jean Houston on Gaiam TV today and was moved tremendously by one observation she made in particular. She noted that each of us gets wounded during our life times, and that if we live long enough, we become so full of holes that we ultimately become holy.

My own life has taught me that my wounds will ultimately diminish or enrich me, depending largely upon whether I meet them with a closed fist or an open heart. Ive also come to understand to my amazement that an ordinary day can be transformed from the mundane to the holy not so much by what happens during the course of it, but by what questions I choose to ask of myself when I first encounter it.

Michael Beckwith urges us to ask the following three questions each and every day.

How can I grow?

How can I give?

What can I celebrate?

Ive found that every morning that I ask myself these three questions and then commit to living the answers by the end of the day, my life is so much more likely to be experienced as the profound gift that it is.

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Autumn and My Mothers Cancer

Today was a perfect autumn day, the kind that calls me out of my head and into my senses. The kind that finds me with my car windows rolled down and the music loud. The kind that makes me feel giddy and free. The kind thats drenched in vibrant color and sunshine during the day, and graced with the scent of baking apples and cinnamon at dinner time. The kind that says to me, hey, just maybe you can spend each and every day living in radical amazement each and every day even the hard ones.

Theres such sweet celebration and melancholy in autumn temperatures drifting down, mists rising, the ancient choreography of birds embarking on their long migration, the harvest moon an enchanting paradise so soon to be lost as nature once again begins her inevitable journey into the frigid arms of winter.

While the autumn advances and the leaves deepen and dazzle before relinquishing their hold on the bodies that have sustained them, my mothers own grasp weakens as her cancer progresses and her spirit quickens. My love of nature has never been more acute than in autumn and I have never loved my mother more fiercely than right now.

I walk along the shore of Wolfes Neck woods, hear crows cawing in the distance, tilt my face up towards a gentler sun that caresses now instead of scorches. Im both awed and saddened at the same time. I wonder how much of life is at its most beautiful just before dying. Is this the truest bitter gift of death, that life becomes oh so much sweeter?

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. .get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Ammidst the loss, the longing, the life, and the love, I am amazed

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Just One Minute and 7 Seconds to be Inspired

Heres a video that celebrates all of those wonderful square pegs making their way in a round world, each and every one of us..

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How Rollo May Survived his Nervous Break Down

Recently I was appreciating the photographs of a woman whom I admire tremendously – pictures of her garden, the ocean, a number of stunning landscapes, an osprey nest, and an eagle in flight. As a child she was the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, tortured by the kind of cruelty and ugliness that can break hearts and shatter souls. And yet, as an adult she has spent a great deal of time both capturing and creating beauty. I was reminded as she shared her photography with me of psychologist, Rollo May, one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement.

As a young man May fell victim to a debilitating depression. Many years later, when asked by writer and film maker, Phil Cousineau, what had saved him during that dark and painful time, Rollo replied, “beauty.”

In his book, “My Quest for Beauty” May wrote of wandering aimlessly in the hills of Greece where one day he stumbled into a field of wild poppies and had the following epiphany, “It seemed that I had not listened to my inner voice, which had tried to talk to me about beauty. I had been too hard-working, too principled to spend time merely looking at flowers . . . it had taken a collapse of my whole former way of life for this voice to make itself heard. . . What is beauty? . . . Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases ones sense of being alive.”

I am thinking about my remarkable photographer friend and about Rollo May when I visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. After a long and difficult week, I lie down beside the waterfall in the rhododendron garden among the ferns, hostas, bees, and beautiful blossoms. I welcome the beauty, allow myself to become intoxicated by it, lost in it. George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.” And so I send my love out into the garden. I listen. It begins to speak

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Matthew Fox, Peter Reason and Falling in Love at Least Three Times a Day

Photo by Guy Mayer

In a thought provoking paper entitled, Reflections on Sacred Experience and Sacred Science, Peter Reason wrote, I heard for the first time the challenge that we in the West had lost the feeling for sacredness, the ability to notice the sacredness of our world, and that we need to discover this anew if we are to learn from the traditions of Native Americans. One is entering a different world, a world that is again alive and enchanted, a world in which all sentient beings bring their gifts of teachings, and are thus worthy of honour. Such an animate world is akin to that inhabited by the alchemists, and can only be comprehended fully through a participatory consciousness.

In this same paper Reason quotes the following from Morris Bermans book, The Re-enchantmant of the World:

The view of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were all seen as wondrous, alive, and human beings felt at home in this environment. The cosmos, in short, was a place of belonging. A member of this cosmos was not an alienated observer of it but a direct participant in its drama.The story of the modern epoch, at least on the level of mind, is one of progressive disenchantment. From the sixteenth century on, mind has been progressively expunged from the phenomenal world At least in theorythe mechanical philosophy (is) the dominant mode of thinking. That mode can best be described as disenchantment, nonparticipation, for it insists on a rigid distinction between observer and observed. Scientific consciousness is alienated consciousness: there is no ecstatic merger with nature, but rather total separation from it

Reason points out that our disenchantment and disconnection from the natural world and from our own experience has led us to a kind of soul sickness and calls for a re-sacralization of the world. One way to do this, he suggests, is to follow theologian Matthew Foxs advice to fall in love at least three times a day.

And so today I fell in love with a puppy I met on my walk, rubbing my cheek against her silky soft fur, and laughing fully from my belly as she wiggled wildly and covered my face with kisses.

Later I witness the anguish and sorrow of a couple desperately attempting to find their way across a chasm that seems to grow wider and more dangerous with each moment – with each jagged heartbeat – and with each accusation. Finally, as they sit rigid and exhausted, I ask them to take just a few moments to listen for what else might lie silently beneath their fears, anger, frustration and betrayals. Softly at first, barely perceptible even, their breathing steadies and something indescribable begins to happen as the energy in the room shifts and remarkably (you would have had to have been there) and seemingly as if by magic we are each touched and even (I think) for a moment transfixed by the undeniable presence of a battered and weary but still living love.

After work I spoke with a friend whom Ive known for over thirty years and as she shared with me a simple and yet oh so sweet story about her day, I allowed myself to savor her voice, her laughter, and her unique and wildly optimistic perspective, and I felt my love for her warm my heart and gentle my spirit.

And so, I have fallen in love at least three times today and I resolve to fall in love at least three times tomorrow as well. In doing so, I allow myself to be enchanted and to more fully embrace the sacred.

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For the Artist at the Start of the Day

I believe in morning rituals although I fail all too often these days to engage in them. Still, I cant stress enough how important they are, how effective they can be in getting me ready to greet my day feeling steadied and grounded, readied (at least for the moment) to really see the beauty before me and committed to greet those I meet with an open heart.

Ive found both poetry and music to be particularly helpful when initiating one of my first deliberate and conscious acts of the day. I thought Id share one with you that was written by the late poet, John O Donahue entitled, For the Artist at the Start of the Day.

May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
That cut right through the surface to a source.

May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
When the gift within you slips clear
Of the sticky web of the personal
With its hurt and its hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A Morning when you become a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

~ John ODonohue ~

ODonohue reminds me here that every life is a work of art and that att some level we are reborn again and again with each brand new ordinary/extraordinary day.

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In Search of the Good LIfe

What is the good life? The late comedian, George Burns, concluded that he had had a good life. Scott and Helen Nearing (homesteaders and social activists) maintained that they had lived the good life too. George Burns life was vastly different from the Nearings and yet I suspect that those who knew them each well would have agreed that each of their lives had been well lived.

So many people long for a particular version of the good life that theyve heard so much about, one thats filled with images of luxury and wealth. Sadly, all too many of them struggle to achieve this vision in spite of the significant emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological, and ecological tolls that are exacted along the way.

Interestingly, while the notion of the good life seems to be deeply implanted in our psyche, its origin stems from the dreams of those who came before us, and meant something entirely different than what so many of us have come to yearn for. The world was introduced to the concept of the good life by William Penn and Henry David Thoreau and was a vastly different version than popular cultures turned out to be. To them, the good life represented a life style based on simplicity, personal freedom, meaningful work and spiritual, psychological and intellectual growth and development.

As the economy continues its downward spiral and the impact of global warming intensifies, it seems more important to me than ever that we redefine for ourselves what living the good life can be.

Writer and philosopher, William Henry Channing wrote, To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion. To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. To listen to stars and birds and babes and sages with an open heart. To study hard, think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions. Never hurry. In a word, to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common. This is my symphony. Channings image of the good life is one that moves and inspires me. This is the good life that can only be denied to me by barriers of my own creation, otherwise, it is always within my means and within my reach. Today, I plan to celebrate my good life.

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