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BY PARKER J. PALMER  WEEKLY COLUMNIST

As you know, I say unkind things about winter every now and then. But cut me some slack, winter-lovers! I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and I’ve earned my stripes when it comes to ice and snow and zero temps!

Truth be told, there are certain features of this season that I, too, love. For example, on the introverted/extroverted scale, I’m right in the middle. Winter is good for my introverted side.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, I find myself going inward in ways that nourish my soul. It’s a spiritual version of hibernation, I suppose.

That’s why I love this poem by David Whyte. It takes me on an inner journey, touching on things I need to remember and truths I need to embrace.

At the moment, this line speaks to me: “what disturbs and then nourishes has everything we need.” If you’re in a mood to sit by this virtual fire for a while in solitude and silence, maybe this poem has a gift for you.

winter fire--fire of the winter in the midnight designermr

The Winter of Listening
by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.

Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

winter dawn

winterforest cascades washington

PARKER J. PALMER is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. He is someone my late husband knew and respected for many years.
 Kohler Dunes
 Photo courtesy of Matthew John George

Following our show with Esther Sternberg, “The Science of Healing Places,” (see  the following posting on this subject) listeners continue to gift us with picturesque images of their physical sanctuaries and healing spaces. This might not be surprising, but the common themes we’ve noticed: home and nature.

In the photo above, Matthew John George takes us along the shores of Lake Michigan to the Kohler Dunes State Natural Area in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. While, in the photo below, Steve Gentile presents the best of both worlds — Kaaterskill Falls in New York, “which is in reality right in my backyard.” He posted this scene on our Facebook page and shared this important parting thought:

“Every sacred place could be embraced as ‘right in our backyard’ and we should confidently protect them as a part of our soul’s wellbeing.”

Steve Gentile (from Facebook)

Photo courtesy of Steve Gentile

Robin and Linda Williams with Garrison Keillor and Richie Gorski on the synthesizer…

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Across the Blue Mountains

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I heard a married man to a young girl say
“Go dress you up, Pretty Katie, and come go with me
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny.

“I’ll buy you a horse, love, and saddle to ride
I’ll buy myself another to ride by your side
We’ll stop at every tavern we’ll drink when we’re dry
Across the Blue Mountains go my Katie and I

“Well, up spoke her mother, and angry was she then
“Sayin’ daughter, oh dear daughter, he’s a married man
And there’s young men aplenty more handsome than he
Let him take his own wife to the Allegheny”

“Oh mother, oh mother, he’s the man of my heart
And wouldn’t it be a dreadful thing if we should have to part
I’d envy every woman who I’d ever see
Go ‘cross the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny”

(Well the last time I saw him, he was saddled to ride
With Katie, his darling, right there by his side
A laughing and a singing and thankful to be free
To cross the Blue Mountain to the Allegheny)

We left before daybreak on a buckskin and roan
Past tall shivering pines where mockingbirds moan
Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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southfork

Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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river rock collection spot near harrisonburg

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appalachian-trail-

My last travel in life with my husband was across these mountains to a new home together.

It lasted for another twenty-five years.  I am so glad we made the trip and took the chance.

We did it about the same time that this recording was made and I much remember going with him to hear Robin and Linda sing together in a lovely Virginia venue.

One of our many cherished memories.

Most of these photos were taken on our travels through the Allegheny Mountains and through the Shenandoah River area which is also captured here.  The first photo were taken in the Allegheny mountains in May and the two river pictures were taken of the Shenandoah, also in May.

 

In The Center Of My Heart A Star

with thanks to Beth for the original posting…

Via dreaminginthedeepsouth.tumblr.com

By the Church on Sunday Morning Nobuyuki Taguchi

“It is perhaps the misfortune of my life that I am interested in far too much but not decisively in any one thing; all my interests are not subordinated in one but stand on an equal footing.”

— Søren Kierkegaard

*

“Most days I don’t know
what I want.
I want to escape,
I want to stay behind.
I want to leave without a goodbye
and disappear into the anonymity
of a new life,
I want to keep all the people I have loved
locked inside my heart forever.
Maybe it would be best to allow
the world to swallow me whole
and spit me out somewhere new.
I’ve spent a lifetime growing roots
into a place born of misery
and swallowing sunshine in
an effort to keep myself from
choking on the sadness that
smothered every single light that
threatened to expose this place.

I want everything.
I want to be a mystery to you,
untouchable,
a star all to myself
a galaxy away from your starved fingers,
I want you to cover my bones
with your body and kiss my secrets out of my skin,
I want to love and be loved,
I want to detach myself from
the danger of it all,
keep myself safe from breaking.

I want to be no one at all,
tossed into the wind with the
precious gift of knowing that
new beginnings are underway.
I want to be everywhere at once,
breathing new air,
shedding my skin with every new city.
I want to be someone,
I want my name to be held in someone’s
mouth with all the tenderness that
adoration brings.
I want to matter in the volatile way that
leaves fingerprints permanently etched into souls.

I am an island unknown to myself,
I am the brick house I’ve lived in
since I was a little girl.
I am simultaneously falling apart
and falling together.
I am a daughter of fire,
a descendant of the sea,
my entire being at war with
desire and reality.

I want it all to stop spinning.”

— Emily Palermo, Everything

*

“For a long time, memory researchers assumed that memories were like volumes stored in a library. When your brain remembered something, it was simply searching through the stacks and then reading aloud from whatever passage it discovered. But some scientists now believe that memories effectively get rewritten every time they’re activated, thanks to a process called reconsolidation. To create a synaptic connection between two neurons the associative link that is at the heart of all neuronal learning you need protein synthesis. Studies on rats suggest that if you block protein synthesis during the execution of learned behavior pushing a lever to get food, for instance the learned behavior disappears. It appears that instead of simply recalling a memory that had been forged days or months ago, the brain is forging it all over again, in a new associative context. In a sense, when we remember something, we create a new memory, one that is shaped by the changes that have happened to our brain since the memory last occurred to us.”

— Slate Magazine, “The Science of Eternal Sunshine by Steven, March 22, 2004

*

“In the waters of purity, I melted like salt
Neither blasphemy, nor faith, nor conviction, nor doubt remained.
In the center of my heart a star has appeared
And all the seven heavens have become lost in it.”

— Rumi

 
*

via Diana Butler Bass

Wisdom from Vincent Harding, historian, activist, author, preacher, who passed away this week at 82.
“We are not alone in this struggle for the re-creation of our own lives and the life of our community. It has long been written and known that those who choose to struggle for the life of the earth and its beings are part of an ageless, pulsating membrane of light that is filled with the lives, hopes, and beatific visions of all who have fought on, held on, loved well, and gone on before us. For this task is too magnificent to be carried by us alone, in our house, in our meeting, in our organization, in our generation, in our lifetime… we are all a part of one another, and we are all part of the intention of the great creator spirit to continue being light and life.

[ We are to seek out ] … a path that expresses our own searching – expanding the confidence in the healing power of the universe, in the presence of a loving, leading Power, exposing us always to the harsh and the tender, to the dreadful and the compassionate, prying our lives open to the evidence of things unseen.”
Amen.

 
*

“This is what Wisdom means: To be changed without the slightest effort on your part, to be transformed, believe it or not, merely by waking to the reality that is not words, that lies beyond the reach of words. If you are fortunate enough to be Awakened thus, you will know why the finest language is the one that is not spoken, the finest action is the one that is not done and the finest change is the one that is not willed.”

— Anthony de Mello [pure Grace – thanks to Stephen Parker for the quote]
 
*

Let Your Enemy Be Your Teacher
Monday, May 12, 2014


Make friends with your opponent quickly while he is taking you to court; or he will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and the officer will throw you into prison. You will not get out until you have paid the last penny. — Matthew 5:25-26

Persona and shadow are correlative terms. Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see. The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do. Conversely, the more you live out of your shadow self, the less capable you are of recognizing the persona you are trying to protect and project. It is like a double blindness keeping you from seeing—and being—your best and deepest self. As Jesus put it, “If the lamp within you is, in fact, darkness, what darkness there will be” (Matthew 6:23). It is all about seeing—and seeing fully and truthfully. It takes a lifetime.

Your persona is what most people want from you and reward you for, and what you choose to identify with, for some reason. As you do your inner work, you will begin to know that your self-image is nothing more than just that, and not worth protecting, promoting, or denying. As Jesus says in the passage above, if you can begin to “make friends” with those who have a challenging message for you (your “enemies”), you will usually begin to see some of your own shadow. If you don’t, you will miss out on much-needed wisdom and end up “imprisoned” within yourself or taken to “court” by others; and you will undoubtedly have to “pay the last penny” to reorder your life and your relationships. In the spiritual life, your enemies are really your friends, and that is not just doubletalk. It is very often true.

Richard Rohr: Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,pp. 127-129

 
*

via Parabola Magazine

A simple science

Last night I spoke with a young Chinese woman clearly troubled about confronting deeply negative circumstances in her life; and one of my best friends is struggling with disease and heartbreak.

In their own way, each of them brings their whole Being, everything they are, into this personal moment of struggle and suffering, wondering why things have to be this way, and whether there isn’t a force, a material inner force, that can go against such things.

It prompted me to explain to my friend that people think metaphysics is about some cosmological pie-in-the-sky stuff; angels and cosmic evolution and so on. People write extraordinarily complicated texts about metaphysics, filled with magical diagrams and rays of cosmic energy, hydrogens and galaxies, and so on. It’s fair to say quantum physics is probably simpler to understand.

But that’s not what it’s like at all. Metaphysics is about here and now; it is about the power of Being, which emerges from the divine inward flow and is manifested through intellect and will. So we have an ability to manifest something materially, something extraordinary and positive, which affirms our Being; yet outward circumstances so often arrange themselves as destructive forces, and they seem more powerful than we are.

All of the great stories of heroism, from the epic of Gilgamesh to the stories from the concentration camps, celebrate humanity’s efforts to manifest the positive forces of being against these destructive outward circumstances. It is easy to swallow them as stories on a grand scale; but it is much more difficult to digest them when they are served cold and dirty on the hard plate of one’s personal life. That is when we really have to tighten our belts, pick up the fork, and eat what is true about our life and ourselves; and this is a dish we come to most reluctantly. It takes a greater kind of courage than the courage we read about in the heroic epics to confront our own lives; and although we can take inspiration from the great stories, it is every inward and outward breath of our own life that we have to deal with. This can be an anguishing labor. No one feels as grand as Hercules cleaning out the stables when one is dealing with the mental illness of a loved one or cancer.

This is where real metaphysics comes in. Physics is the study of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions; material things, things as they are. Metaphysics is the study of Being; of what we are as individuals, of how our consciousness encounters the material. So it’s an incredibly practical discipline; and everything about it is about beginning to understand that the external forces and events we confront are not who we are; in a certain sense, they don’t even exist. All they are is data; and data has no organized form or objective sense of what it is. It isn’t intelligent.

In the same sense that atomistic materialism tells us there is nothing more than these little bits of stuff that make up bigger stuff, all that data can ever say is that it is there. But our Being, our awareness — that is what allows us to inwardly form a relationship to the outer, and it is in that place, within us, that the outer events acquire form, which we can have an attitude towards.

This means, oddly, that the realm of heroism doesn’t lie in outward action; it is within us, where we form our attitude towards things, that the hero is born, not in the deeds that he or she does to save the world. Every human being who gets up in the morning and forms a positive attitude to overcome their obstacles and live in the face of the destructive forces around them is a hero. And they will always be a hero, whether they succeed or fail, because the hero is already there in the attitude, regardless of whether they live or die in the context of all the forces that would drag us down.

The hero starts here, and starts now, by saying, yes – I can Be. I can have a wish for the good.

We have a choice in our lives. We can practice this simple science of metaphysics in simple ways, by understanding how we form the outer world through our inner attitude; and we can begin in every moment by trying to make an effort for the good, rather than letting everything go down.

—Lee van Laer, poetry editor

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory