My eldest daughter is married. I’ve inherited a new grandson, a son-in-law, and a whole slew of “in-law” relations. I learned there is now such a thing as “gel” nail polish and polished my nails for the wedding—the first time in about twenty years. It was beginning to wear off when I drove to the North Shore mid-week to “get away” and enjoy Lake Superior. I took the polish off yesterday before spending the evening on my son’s deck with a sizeable group of family members, with music, food, and fireworks. June, the “wedding” month of 2015 is behind me and even July 4th. A two month period with no holidays is beginning. Ah…. I feel like I can settle down again.
There’s been so much “happening” that maybe it’s not surprising that the idea of “knowing” as a “happening” came to me. Here’s how it came—with me having the thought that “It is almost as though knowing “happens,” and then it gradually approaches my conscious awareness. It “happens” outside of the conscious arena…and then moves into it…with all its implications. With its need for manifestation.”
That single thought got me pondering manifestation. That word: “Manifestation.” It is there in the definition of a sacrament: the outward manifestation of an inner reality. There in the words Fr. Adrian spoke at the wedding: a marriage is a manifestation of the love of God. Do any of us feel that we’re manifesting the love of God, or an inner reality . . . as we’re doing it?
I thought of manifestation as I was out walking and hiking. Very aware of the squishy sound of my shoes sliding over wet rock; of the flutter of bird wings and calls; of the air on my bare arms, the smell of it and how it held the lake; the sound of the lake’s gentle gurgle and ocean-like roar. Aware of the outward reality, even as I was mulling, not in thought or words, but still mulling this transition into manifestation of a new reality. It is time to manifest a new reality. This is a sacrament too, and I can abide with that idea.
At the wedding, my cousin Joy got tears in her eyes. Her whole face screwed up as she said, “I can’t imagine my dad not being here.” Her dad, my Uncle Jack, is the last living member of my dad’s immediate family. I thought, “No one wants to face loss of love. The “manifested” love that we feel and see in each other.”
This new life I’ve been writing about and feeling approaching had its inception at some point that I did not realize and has been moving into manifestation ever since. That’s where I am! In the process of making this sacramental passage.
And you always have to close out the old first. You have to leave behind your single state with marriage. You have to leave behind your body with death. Or maybe it isn’t exactly like that. As the Quaker saying goes, Way Opens/Way Closes. The opening of the new comes before the end of the old leaves. That’s the way it is. The way it works. And I suppose it’s natural that there is the place where they meet, the door, more or less, half open and half closed at the same time, and you stand on one side of it one day – trying to keep the door open to the old, and stand on the other side another day—trying to push your way into the new, and only then, perhaps after much pushing and pulling, becoming actually . . . aware.
I was sitting on the couch out in the cabin a few days before my trip north, which I don’t normally do as I’m writing, and in a pause, I noticed a book on the shelf across from me. It looked like a book I had by Fr. Thomas Keating, but I didn’t think it would be, as all that is there, on that particular shelf, are the books I was reading and researching as I discovered feminism a few years ago. This was a thin book, and the pale, sea-green color of it was what made me think it was one of my Keating books. It’s an unusual color and the light was falling on it, illuminating it and the green, so pale as to almost be a non-color, was shimmering. I got up, went over to see what it was, still not expecting anything. Then I read, “Manifesting God.”
I open “Manifesting God” to a page with a corner turned down, where Keating is talking of the Kingdom not being limited but present and active in the ordinary, the profane, and everyday life. “To follow Christ into the Kingdom, we have to give up the myth of rising to some kind of serenity in which nothing can disturb us, or to a wisdom by means of which we can answer all questions and doubts. … The Kingdom is not a success story.”
He spoke of how we can see negativity…or the transformation that is occurring.
The chapter I opened to ends like this:
“When you do not know where you are going; when you have no proof that you are on the right road; when you are thoroughly confused; when everybody rejects you and speaks ill of you, rejoice! … Divine wisdom communicates God’s view of reality and opens our eyes ….”
I remember now the view from the old light house I visited in Two Harbors. The view from the window, and the view from the shore, and the view from the top of the hill. But I feel like it almost doesn’t matter. I got what I needed when the book called me over to find it, and to carry with me, the idea of it’s title.
Thank you, Ben. The sublime and the mundane. What a great way to put it. They get mixed up and mixed in, and there you have it, living the divine life in human form! Blessings to you too!
Mari, I really loved reading this blog ( as I do all your other blogs, of course)…such a wonderful mix of the sublime and the mundane….just showing that anything mundane is a divine manifestation to start with.It’s the way you tell’m! Bless you.
What a beautiful way you journey through life… I just loved to follow you and be with you at Gethsemani… You inspire me to go there too…and how beautiful to experience it all with ACOL as your companion… And letting the inner world reflect in the outer. Thank you.
Thanks, Anne. On glancing back at what I wrote here, it seemed to me like some of the synchronicitous “events” I noted might seem non-contextual and random to others, like the bear at my door. It just seemed like a blessing, as did the older woman in the coffee shop. A nod of love. I hope you do go to Gethsemani or somewhere like it—the silence and solitude have become mainstays of my life and are always agents of grace for me. Blessings, Laura
Dear Mari (and others),
Thank you for sharing your experience of sacramental manifestation. That phrase suddenly sounds kind of clunky to me, but I know what I mean, and it isn’t abstract at all.
Keating’s words were luminous and resonant for me. Being with Mystery in a way that doesn’t deny its sacramental nature, being willing to be with not knowing. A threshold space, but not, if that makes any sense.
Being at Gethsemani last week, everything really felt sacramental. Pretty much everything. I felt bathed in quiet Love pretty much all the time. I don’t know when I have felt such gentle peace and yearning to share the idea that THIS is how it can be…but sharing it with my worldly self is a good place to start. Your blog entries take me into that feeling, or more deeply into it. The details of this most recent entry, both about people and places and ideas, feel so loving (for example, how you noticed your cousin’s expression at your daughter’s wedding when she thought of her dad). Thank you.
Having said that, I want to say that I read almost nothing except ACOL while at Gethsemani, and it felt like everything was crashing gently open. I kept going back again and again. I read the whole text and began reading the Treatises. (I also ran across Gabrielle Bossis’ book He and I in the library, and that felt complementary, somehow, so I read big parts of it.) The last full day I was at Gethsemani, I was putzing around in the garden, not far from Merton’s grave, when I suddenly felt a great urgency about going to the statues. This is a walk I have taken about three times before, and it’s like falling off the edge of the world every single time. I love it, but it takes me deeply into felt Presence in what can be a very challenging way. So, I felt as if I were literally being summoned onto the Statues Path and that it was important for me to do that walk before the retreat ended. I headed out and somehow spent three hours there, praying and taking a few pictures and just being. I don’t know how 2:30 suddenly became You Have Missed Vespers (5:40) as I stumbled out of the woods and headed across the lower Gethsemani garden. I remember standing at the edge of a sunny field in front of the beautiful, weathered white statue of Jesus with his crimson Sacred Heart, my mouth open in joy. I had not been to that part of the path, though I am not sure why, and I didn’t even know this statue existed. It felt both universal and specific (though not special), this offering of Heart. I wept with gratitude.
It would take a long time to write everything that “happened” in Kentucky, and I won’d do it here.
I will say that synchronicity is off the charts, so to speak, with me now, back here in the mountains of north Georgia. I very impulsively drove the 40 minutes to Marietta on Monday to attend Mass at my parish of Transfiguration at noon. I was just a minute or two late, and the only place left in the little Adoration Chapel was beside a nun. That felt oddly fortuitous. I have never seen a nun in Georgia before other than at the monastery in Conyers. Then the newly ordained young priest, who is 28 and has probably celebrated not even 10 Masses yet, gave his short homily, during which he quoted the whole Merton prayer “My Lord God, etc.” I had spent so much time with that prayer at Gethsemani and have never heard it in a homily before. I was amazed. I thanked him afterwards for what was important encouragement for me. Then, in a Starbucks not far away, while writing in my journal, I noticed an older woman, if not homeless then close to it, staring at me. I’ve never seen anyone but upper middle class folks on their phones or doing business at this Starbucks, which is in a well to do part of town. This woman was beaming beatifically at me as if she knew me. When I saw her I smiled, and she smiled back and then dropped her gaze shyly but kept smiling. Then she fell asleep.
When I got home, a black bear was at my door to great me, a young bear hungry and shy. He left when I shooed him gently back to the forest.
Going back in time a bit, on Saturday, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with a beloved spiritual community of mine, deep in the north Georgia mountains. People of all faiths and no special faith are a part of this group, and the man who facilitates the lodges is Creek. This community was exuding Love more powerfully than I can say on Saturday, and though at times I thought I would not actually emerge alive from the lodge itself, when I did I felt buoyed up by the compassion and holy kindness of the lodge. We say “all my relations!” upon entering and leaving the lodge and between “rounds.” All during dinner that night I felt as if I was in a place of pure Love. The feeling isn’t as intense now, of course, but it hasn’t departed. I can revisit it when I focus on it, especially. I thought so much of you and ACOL in that lodge, and I called you into that space with me in gratitude. I hope this does not sound too wacky or presumptuous. One does not do the sweat lodge ceremony for oneself but rather for the healing of others and in gratitude for them. Of course this means too that one is doing ceremony for oneself as well.
I don’t have to know what, if any, larger change I am being called into, though it does feel like I am being called somehow. I am ten years too old to be a serious inquirer into monastic life. I don’t know, and that’s all right. The sacrament of being present is enough. Thanks again for your indispensable part in my continuing awakening.
Laura, It is so lovely to get your reply. I visited your blog or website one day and thought I might say more to you there, but I was so stunned by the quality and content of your writing all I wanted to do was sit there. Now I can’t remember a word you said or if you’ve written or are writing anything for publication, but I want you to know, one writer to another, that I know I have found another writer. Writers and creative people of all sorts get into my heart so fast! And we’re needed.
Thank you for sharing what you could of your retreat–I know how those things go and you could write volumes, and if you can’t write volumes you might prefer not to say too much. When I visited Gethsemani the one time it was just for an afternoon. This was back when we got pictures “developed” and when mine came, there was a shaft of light shooting right into my heart in nearly every one of them.
We have so much in common. That’s one of the reasons I thought to write you on your site…but time gets away from me. I just want to tell you that my mom is from Rome, GA, and if anywhere is “second-homeish” to me, it is Georgia. There’d be something so languid I’d get into there–like another way of living, not to mention talking. Not as much now, but when I was a child people there seemed to be on a different clock.
Also, my oldest friend is Ojibwe and I’ve done some ceremonies with her, but not sweat lodge. Thank you for bringing me into the lodge with you. I am so glad to be getting to know you. And I feel somewhat similarly about not “joining” a community. When all this began I thought that, if I wasn’t married, I might have looked into becoming a nun! But now I am certain I need to be open for what calls me. I am also very grateful that you are feeling called. I remember one time when I was in a Centering Prayer group, actually I had just announced that I was departing from it, and a lovely older woman suggested that I was correct to be leaving, not in so many words saying she new I was called. I left that room with the amazing feeling that she had hope in me. I’d never felt that before.
I have hope in you.
Thank you for your kind, gentle, generous response. I’m going to write a little more as a response to your most recent blog post, but I wanted to say that I appreciate the personal connection I am beginning to feel with you—that may sound a bit audacious, but we are all related and connected, yes?
Dearest Anne, So good to hear from you and all you are realizing as you bring your voice into form. Isn’t it amazing? I know exactly the feelings you describe, the lying in bed nights wondering just how much to invest in your gift and its manifestation. Before you have taken on this particular journey you really do not have any idea the intensity of the experience, of how much it asks, or… you are so right, how much you have to give. I love it that you are coming to value your inner gifts. I agree too about the need to draw on both the feminine and masculine for manifestation. I feel that it stops making you want things to be easy. The desire to give everything you’ve got, and the feeling of fullness that paradoxically comes when you’ve poured everything out, is, or has been for me, one of the ways life becomes new. I am so with you, my creative sister!
Thank you dear Mari for your beautiful encouraging answer… Yes there is a desire and a willingness to give of all the gifts I got and suddenly I can sense the light in them and it feels lke its time and the universe is with me and others encourage me…like a flow…and when I look in the mirror I see a new shining face…like something old is gone… I have felt for a long time how important it is to share our gifts and for many years I have inspired other women to do that…. But ACOL really took me a step further in this so I deeply could see that I am here to be who I truly am an give of my true gifts. And I guess coming more into union, trusting my heart more has made it possible also… I am so thankful to you and ACOL for this… And for me you are a beautiful inspiration in dedicating yourself in totally trust for many years to let this beautiful, stunning, amazingly, loving work of A Course of Love, come through into the world. I bow to you for what you given me and others… Thank you.
Your thoughts about manifestatiing and the inner and outer reality make me think about the last days when I been focusing on producing my Cd.
It has been a process where the outer manifestation has helped me to come to value my inner gifts even more… It even came to a point where I saw myself holding back not making the Cd as beautiful as it could be because of money…and I was lying awake during the night struggling with deciscions… And then a deep knowing came that my gifts carry indeed a message that can inspire and uplift others and that the Universe want them to come out….and I can trust that I will always have my needs met… Even if it costs as much as I will get selling it…I dont think it will..
I always felt that my inner women (intuition, feelings) is guiding my outer man (action)
Now I realised that my actions is also strengthening my inner worth and makes me see the worth in my gifts….. So this has been an interesting journey into the New.
And I love the symbol of the threshhold and the half opened door…thats where I am…and seeing it like that makes it more comfortable and easy to be here.
And I love and get shivers from Keatings words about the “Kingdom being present and active in the ordinary, the profane and everyday life” and that its not a “success story” How good to hear..
And for me also the outer landscapes is a mirror of the inner life…and my deepest insight the last days, about my gifts and expressing them came while sleeping up on a hill in my car with the unlimited sky right above me…and with a beautiful view that gave me a feeling of freedom and made me see and feel unlimited infinite possibilities…
Now my Cd is calling but it felt good to have some words with you Mari.
Love from Anne