The Journey

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

~ Mary Oliver

Journey

Gratitude

“Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us, gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life. Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is privilege, that we are part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape. To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someones, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once. Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative means we are simply not paying attention.”

~ David Whyte – November Thoughts 2013

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Being alive

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Alive

I awaken before dawn

“I awaken before dawn, go into the kitchen and fix a cup of tea.
I light the candle and sit in its glow on the meditation cushion.
Taking my cup in both hands, I lift it to my Lord and give thanks.
The feel of the cup against my palms brings the potter to mind
and I offer a blessing for his hands.

I give thanks for the clay, the glaze and the kiln.
I take a sip and follow the warmth into my body.
I offer a blessing for those who brought electricity to my home,
who dug the ditches for the lines,
who built my home and put in the wires,
who made my tea kettle and brought me water to fill it.

I take a sip and bless the people in India or China who grew the tea,
cultivated it, picked and dried the leaves, took it to market,
handled it through the many transactions to bring it to my home.
I take a sip and bless those people in Florida, California or Central America
who grew the tree that blossomed into flowers.

I give thanks for the warmth of the sun and the rain which turned the blossoms into lemons,
and I bless the hands that picked the fruit, sorted it, touched it as it traveled from the orchard to my table.
I take another sip and bless the hands of those who provided the sugar
which sweetened the tea, harvested the cane, processed it,
bagged it and sent it on its way to me.

I take another sip and lift my cup in gratitude as I feel the interconnection of my body now with theirs,
my blood now with theirs,
my bones now with theirs,
and my heart fills with love for all of creation.

I give thanks.”

~ Helen Moore

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Heart

“The heart shifts shape of its own accord—
from bird to ax, from pinwheel
to budded branch. It rolls over in the chest,
a brown bear groggy with winter, skips
like a child at the fair, stopping in the shade
of the fireworks booth, the fat lady’s tent,
the corn dog stand. Or the heart
is an empty room where the ghosts of the dead
wait, paging through magazines, licking
their skinless thumbs. One gets up, walks
through a door into a maze of hallways.
Behind one door a roomful of orchids,
behind another, the smell of burned toast.
The rooms go on and on: sewing room
with its squeaky treadle, its bright needles,
room full of file cabinets and torn curtains,
room buzzing with a thousand black flies.
Or the heart closes its doors, becomes smoke,
a wispy lie, curls like a worm and forgets
its life, burrows into the fleshy dirt.
Heart makes a wrong turn.
Heart locked in its gate of thorns.
Heart with its hands folded in its lap.
Heart a blue skiff parting the silk of the lake.
It does what it wants, takes what it needs, eats
when it’s hungry, sleeps when the soul shuts down.
Bored, it watches movies deep into the night,
stands by the window counting the streetlamps
squinting out one by one.
Heart with its hundred mouths open.
Heart with its hundred eyes closed.
Harmonica heart, heart of tinsel,
heart of cement, broken teeth, redwood fence.
Heart of bricks and boards, books stacked
in devoted rows, their dusty spines
unreadable. Heart
with its hands full.
Hieroglyph heart, etched deep with history’s lists,
things to do. Near-sighted heart. Club-footed heart.
Hard-headed heart. Heart of gold, coal.
Bad juju heart, singing the low down blues.
Choir boy heart. Heart in a frumpy robe.
Heart with its feet up reading the scores.
Homeless heart, dozing, its back against the Dumpster.
Cop-on-the-beat heart with its black billy club,
banging on the lid.”

~ Dorianne Laux

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Help

“Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on. We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life even as competent individuals. Even the most solitary writer needs a reader, the most Machiavellian mobster, a trusted lieutenant, the most independent candidate, a voter.

Not only does the need for help never leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives. At every stage we are dependent on our ability to ask for specific forms of help at very specific times and in very specific ways. Even at the end, the dignity of our going depends on others’ willingness to help us die well; the sincerity of their help often commensurate to the help we extended to them in our own life. Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity.

There are two kinds of generosity or help for which we must ask: visible help and strangely, invisible help. Visible help is practical or transactional help, asking for visible help we ask for help with what we can see is troubling us or we pay for a bed and a meal on our onward way or we pay someone to work for us. But it may be that it is the second less easily recognizable and invisible help which is most crucial for stepping into the unknown. Though we can think of invisible help in the old sense of an intervention from angelic or parallel worlds, we can also think of it in an every day practical way: invisible help is the help that we do not as yet know we need. Invisible help is the help we are not quite ready for and all we can do is shape our identity toward revelation, toward being surprised, toward paying attention to what is just about to appear over the horizon of our understanding.

This overwhelming need for visible and invisible help never really changes in a human life from the first day we are brought from the womb calling lustily for those commodities. We need extraordinary physical help to get through our first years, continued help through our childhood and extraordinary emotional help and good invisible luck to get through our adolescence. After that the need for continual help becomes more subtle, hidden as it is by the illusion that we are suddenly free agents able to survive on our own, the one corner of the universe able to supply its own answers.

It may be that the ability to know the necessity for help; to know how to look for that help and then most importantly, how to ask for it, is one of the primary transformative dynamics that allows us to emancipate ourselves into each new epoch of our lives. Without the understanding that we need a particular form of aide at every crucial threshold in our lives and without the robust vulnerability in asking for that help we cannot pass through the door that bars us from the next dispensation of our lives: we cannot birth ourselves.

To ask for visible and invisible help and to ask for the right kind of help and to ask in a way in which we feel that it is no less than our due, that, in effect, we deserve a visible and invisible helping hand, may be an engine of transformation itself. Our greatest vulnerability is the very door through which we must pass in order to open the next horizon of our lives. In the very end comes also another beginning, the ancient sense of a door opening to some final unknown, some invisible voice attempting to help us come to terms with our own disappearance, the hand extended to help us over a horizon equally as mysterious as the one we crossed at our birth.”
David Whyte in “CONSOLATIONS:The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.”
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