Donkeys and Spiders

Donkeys and Spiders

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, calling into memory an historical sequence of events that launched “Holy Week” in the Christian religious tradition.  The significance of Palm Sunday goes well beyond remembering the story of a crowd waving palm branches to welcome and recognize a wisdom teacher unlike anyone else they had ever experienced. And it’s not just a commemoration of a past historical event either; Palm Sunday points to a dynamic that is present in our world and in my heart today.

In history, Palm Sunday was the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to face the human realities of his time and place, which would likely result in his execution. Even as he rode amidst the waving palm leaves, he was facing death.  He could have run for cover, gone into seclusion to save his skin or decided to play a political game by doing a flip-flop of his message to mollify his oppressors. No, there was none of that. He stayed true to who he knew he was and what he knew his mission in life to be; he was showing his followers a way of being that was radical departure from what they received from their culture and many of their religious leaders.

Although Jerusalem on the Sunday of Jesus’s arrival was a far cry from a modern city, it is eye-opening to realize that the politics of power, corruption, and militarized law enforcement bear striking similarity to our own urban centers.  Risking analogy, imagine that a person who belonged to a marginalized, sometimes rowdy ethnic group was processing into the capitol city bringing with him or her a significant crowd of followers. Such a gathering would certainly attract some attention.

According to tradition, Jesus was a “blended being” — completely human as well part of a seamless embodied relationship with the shimmering breath of all creation. With each step of his sandaled feet he carried not only the emotional, physical and mental reality of his humanity but also the embrace and knowing of the more expansive dimension of his nature. On Palm Sunday, this is what attracted the throngs to leave their homes and to come to Jerusalem. The stories and parables they’d heard called them to live in more compassionate, neighborly ways. Still ringing in their ears were phrases such as: “love your neighbor”, “turn the other cheek”, “forgive your enemies”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, “blessed are the meek”, “blessed are the peacemakers”.

These teachings reverberate across time! Today this way of being, challenging as it is, has millions of adherents —despite all the disruption and political treachery. The inspiration today is to KEEP GOING!  We are all interconnected, brothers and sisters of each other, stewards of our environment and bearing some individual responsibility for working things out with each other. Even in the middle of these discouraging times, many of us— across all faith traditions and outside them as well— know that living this way is the only way that makes sense.  Despite instances of ignorance, confusion and power-grabbing, we must keep plodding along, weaving our lives forward in the way of love.

Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday I went into my kitchen to put a few utensils in the dishwasher. There, walking with verve and attitude across the open stainless steel door was a medium sized brown spider. She startled me; she didn’t belong there.  I wondered if she was a young brown recluse; it would have been easy to smash the life out of her because I was afraid; but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I took a juice glass from the cupboard, grabbed a cardstock piece of junk mail and let the energetic spider crawl into her rescue apparatus. Why am I telling you this? Before setting her free in the backyard, I paused to inquire if there was a message. Yes, there was; she was a messenger. Spider reminded me that past, present and future are interwoven in a large web. The lessons of Palm Sunday vibrate across the strands into this moment. Even very small acts matter. Honoring the life of that brown spider was a small instance of connection to the teachings to honor life and all the interconnections. Who knows what insects that spider will eat outside in the yard that might have munched on my vegetable garden?

Over the weekend I attended an inspiring concert by dozens of local musicians,   organized by a local activist and former co-worker. It was a benefit event for the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and there was standing room only in the co-housing common house.  Financial contributions were robust, reflecting the compassionate, clear headed, resolve to offer money, music and embodied action in support of  harmony, justice and love.  This sort of thing is happening in pods and communities all over the globe despite what’s going on in the empire of our government or being inflicted upon innocents by murderous tyrants, or endured from icy hearted people who have in my humble opinion lost their way. Never forget that Jesus himself was a survivor of infanticide sanctioned by a Roman governor.

So, I ride the donkey of my life—that humble animal nature that plods along dutifully carrying my burdens and heartfelt intentions. I aspire to carry on, to see the good in people around me and to recognize our many similar concerns. Although I’m not expecting to face death by the end of the week, there is no time to waste. The Way onward into the next days beckons.

Note: Photo taken January 21, 2017, Women’s March, Santa Rosa, CA

First Day of Spring 2017

Facts: today is the first day of Spring; the president of my country is a bald face liar– most probably a puppet of Vladimir Putin, and a disgusting proportion of elected Republicans are shamelessly slithering in the murky undertows  of partisanship having pulled their anchors out of the traditional waterways that used to guide  our country.

I sit watching the dawn of this day. Rays of first light emerge  through the tall trees which are budding with expectancy high above their deep roots within  the clay soil  banks of Lornadell Creek,  just behind our vegetable garden. What am I to make of the startling facts? Where is my root system gathering nourishment… wisdom … understanding… direction?

I feel more vitality when I tap into what I stand “for” rather than just feeling resistance, alarm or abhorrence; and these days all these qualities of feeling waft through my consciousness. What I do know is that,  like many others who have walked upon this good Earth, my essential being is rooted in a much larger awareness that is clearly not of the same understanding and frame of reference as what I am witnessing in so much of today’s politics. Like the wild trees brazenly proclaiming the launch of another growing season, I too am budding with a resolve to live from the bedrock of my essential knowing. It all boils down to these four guidelines:

  1. It’s never been easy.
  2. I am alive in this time period because my life holds the promise and potential to contribute meaningfully into what is happening.
  3. Life is sacred – all of it; the coral reefs, the rivers and the refugees are each part of larger relationships that we know as the gift of life.
  4. We are held in Great Mystery and love by an ultimate reality that is as near as our next thought and as pervasive as the whole universe and beyond.

In the Christian calendar this week marks the celebration of the Annunciation –that bizarre and miraculous exchange between the Archangel Gabriel and the young woman the Holy Spirit sent him to visit. The story goes that young Mary was selected to receive a startling invitation — would she agree to carry the Light of Divinity in her womb and mother this very Light regardless of the human toll this would demand from her? Her reply was a simple: “Yes”.  The sacred story lends inspiration to my day. It informs and emboldens me to say “Yes” to that aspect of my being that carries  life sustaining promise and potential as well as acknowledgment that this path will always demand me to see things with the vision of my essential nature.

Although it is true that caring relationships, compassion and love prevail in both small and large ways in our world; it is also true that this pervasive goodness co-exists alongside the seductive lure of ignorance, fear and corruption. If I’m going to stand tall in the Light of my better nature, I also need to be courageous enough to name bald face lies for what they are as I step wholeheartedly into the growth season ahead. Happy Spring!

Worming My Way To Wholeness

Worming My Way To Wholeness

February 2017

I’m staying in a li;le cabin at a retreat center West of Healdsburg, California seeking respite from my toxic daily
rouEne of obsessive news
checking and a generalized

inability to focus adequately on
my larger life goals. This place
offers the healing energies of
nature, a spiritual focus and
the safety of staying near
others. It’s been raining here, a
lot — at least fiOy-some inches
in a li;le over four months.
During the first night I was here the wind blew sheets of rain against the building. In the wee hours, the din of the deluge awakened even a deep sleeper like me. Later, when I got up I found a li;le red wiggler worm on the linoleum floor of the bathroom. Poor thing, she must have been seeking drier ground and come in through a vent or window casing. Filled with compassion for her plight, I carefully brought her outside to the leeward side of the co;age, beneath the roof overhang and gently laid her squirmy, nervous body on a patch of soO earth.

These past months and weeks have held events, personaliEes and unforeseen outcomes that have shaken me out of a former naiveté and complacency about the outer forces that affect my life. Just a year ago I believed that the human rights and women’s rights I

witnessed being advanced in my lifeEme were indisputable. I believed that the ability of our government to withstand regressive, vulgar power grabs was a foregone conclusion. Even though there have always been doomsayers, I paid them li;le heed. I felt secure that the rare confluence of idealism and pragmaEsm that forged our government along with our accustomed rights and privileges would endure. I didn’t think it could disintegrate with the rapidity that now threatens us.

Now I wish someone would swoop in and pick me up off the floor and carry me to sane ground. Yet I realize it’s an inside job. It’s my head. So, I have taken myself on a healing retreat. For the last four days I have raEoned my consumpEon of breaking news on my cell phone. Walking along nature paths in between raindrops, I’m noEcing the larger cycles of nature that embody inherent mechanisms that bring balance, elegance and ar\ul soluEons into places of disequilibrium. Rain brings an end to drought. Ground water finds a path to the stream. Rainbows bring radiant color aOer the darkness of a storm. Nature holds an inherent longing to bring order and beauty out of chaos, to fashion a simple, elegant soluEon from the disordered, repulsive or dysfuncEonal.

Here in the budding green of February in Northern California, I have come home to a healing sense of wholeness. On my way to morning prayers in the chapel this morning I

saw a very large earthworm drowning in a big puddle of water on the blacktop. I was running late, I didn’t stop. The decision did not sit well with me, so aOer breakfast I returned to the puddle of water. The worm was sEll there. This Eme I listened to my heart. She crawled up on an oak leaf so I could carry her to safer ground.

You may find this hard to believe, but that simple act provided me with sweet joy, not to menEon what it did for the worm.

So for now, simple acts that weave me into the wholeness of nature offer a very effecEve anEdote to my malaise. My firm resolve is to take what I’ve experienced these days on retreat back into town. My intenEon is to conEnue to wean myself from too much breaking news, allowing just enough informaEon to stay informed. I’ll take walks, garden, meditate and engage in acEons that hold deep meaning for me. If I start to forget, hopefully one of the many worms that make their home near mine will remind me to take care of my poor head by sinking back into the wisdom that resides in my heart.