This time of concentration on the self is unheralded in history. It is what has been needed. Be grateful to all of the forerunners of the new who have been courageous enough to call you to examine yourself. Be grateful to yourself that you have had the courage to listen and to learn and to study what these forerunners of the new, these prophets of the new have called you to learn. Be appreciative of every tool that has advanced your progress. But now be willing to leave them behind. T4:9.7
It is the first perfect morning of the summer. The first morning when I am totally comfortable in my thin, cotton, three-quarter-sleeved top. My first morning without socks. The first morning when the cabin is not just a little too hot or cold.
When I head back inside, I have the feeling of wandering. Drifting from one thing to the next. I pick up my word puzzle, the one called “Wonderworld” in my daily paper, the one where you find and circle the letters of words. This morning’s puzzle is on sleep patterns. I start with “tern” and find “patterns.” My pen glides smoothly, making circles on the absorbent newsprint. “Ages” becomes “stages.”
A year or so ago, I switched from crossword puzzles to these. I like forming the circles. I like forming the words. I like it that I don’t have to think, as I did with crossword puzzles. I am mindlessly tinkering with words and letters. Mindlessly occupied. This morning I see it as a metaphor.
There is no sense of getting better at my Wonderworld puzzle, as there had been with the crossword puzzle, which I started out struggling with and felt pride in as I improved. Donny did the New York Times crossword and I did the “other” one, the easier one. We sat quietly at the kitchen table with our own sections of the newspaper. Mine was on the page with garage sales and job postings. His next door to the comics. Sometimes I’d ask him about a word. He’d say, “How many letters?” Each time he’d come across a question about an author or literature, he’d ask me. It was one of my favorite parts of the day, gained after years of getting kids out the door. A “married couple time” of finding that unique combination of being together and yet not occupied by each other or the concerns of a home. A time of sitting contentedly…yet exercising our brains.
Now I shape circles, quietly, carefully, with my black medium-point pen that glides. I remember my mom saying that in the early days of being taught penmanship, the teachers would have the children make circles upon circles across a page, getting their hands ready to move the pen in the motion of cursive; a skill no longer taught. Pride in penmanship is becoming a thing of the past. It is not useful or necessary.
As I construct my words from their letters, all this runs through my mind without coming in words until I am back to the cabin and realize the words are there. I sit down again, once again following a thread that appears unrelated to anything at all. Ideas, musings, they seem to come as “directions.” I am being moved in this way. I am following, not leading. I am in a certain flow that is going somewhere even if it appears not to be. I am left to connect the dots as I connect the letters into words. I am combining, seeing newly, watching words becoming what they are.
Feeling dazed by change for a while, I have thought it was about this or that. The feel of change was accentuated by Ivor’s death, which seemed to come as change on top of change—taking change from the specific and personal to the profound and the universal. Change that is a direction but not a map. Change that is turning from head power to heart power. Change that is turning from separation to union. Change that is about acceptance. Change that is picking up speed. A quiet revolution. And change that is, just possibly, a movement to being able to be at peace within change. To being change. Change that includes accepting what I don’t want to change too. To accept those things about myself that won’t change—because I like them. To realize I like my serious, contemplative side; that I like taking “short” walks, that I like my coffee “hot” no matter that it means continuously reheating it. That I like the mindless word puzzle over the one that requires the use of my brain.
Accepting, too, the fervor that comes of imagining that I can have something to do with changing the world. Jesus changed the world. I do not forget that his Courses are also alive in people around the world and that they are changing the world. In Day 2 of The Dialogues Jesus says, “You have let go the ego, re-viewed your life, unlearned previous patterns, and now see the difference between the image you hold of yourself and your present Self.” But then he goes on to say, and I love this, that we have not as yet developed the capacity to accept this fully.
This capacity is what I suddenly have come to see has been developing through change. Like putting letters together into words, this dawning idea has filled out a picture. The new capacity arises in sudden bursts. It arises and spills out. There is hopefulness. It is a “great arising” as it comes into expression, full of passion and pathos. Part of it is a desire to see the world’s needs met. What I want for myself, I want for the world. I want to live in harmony and abundance and simplicity. To live quietly, without the shrill noise of discontent, conflict, injustice. Yes, I want to change my world and the world.
I’ve wanted to change the world ever since I began to feel its pain and mine as if they were one. I was maybe 14 or 15 years old. The years of Vietnam and Nixon. The time when the middle class bred hippies went to college and dropped out of the world of their parents’ lives. When the circumstances combined into an arising that couldn’t help but reach out and announce newness. It was change so quick and vast that life felt totally different in 1970 than in 1965. It was a change that called for . . . change. How could anyone remain the same?
These months of tussling with change have had a purpose. Of that I am certain. I am developing the capacity, slowly, painstakingly, for the great change of which I am a part.
I was least accepted as prophet and savior by those who were most like me, those who watched me grow, worked alongside my parents, and lived in the same town. This was because they knew I was not different from them, and they could not accept that they were the same as me. They were then, and you are now, no different than I. We are all the same because we are not separate. God created the universe as an interrelated whole. That the universe is an interrelated whole is no longer disputed even by science. What you have made to hide your reality has been, with the help of the Holy Spirit, being turned into that which will help you learn what your reality really is. Yet you still refuse to listen and to learn. You still prefer things to be other than what they are and, through your preference, choose to keep it so.
Make a new choice! The choice that your heart yearns to make for you and that your mind is finding increasingly difficult to deny. When you choose unity over separation, you choose reality over illusion. You end opposition by choosing harmony. You end conflict by choosing peace. C:6.4-5
Laura, I feel the same when I read your writing, and feel so blessed to receive responses like yours and Michael’s to what I’ve expressed. Your reading from Black Elk as one peak moment in your day is amazing. But I was drawn as much to the young guy in the grocery store lot. It reminded me of what I heard in Mass last night, after the Gospel reading where Jesus feeds the crowd of 5000 with loaves and fishes. Our new young priest who is 30 and looks not much more than 15 and as frail as a young sapling, was full of enthusiasm for the fact that it was a young boy who offered the baskets of bread and fish. There was something in that for me too, from this young man, who honestly looked just so innocent in his passion for the boy’s part in the story. He made no profound meaning out of it, just noticed it. How powerful noticing can be. Thank you for noticing what you do and sharing it here. Love~ Mari
Dear Mari, Michael, and other kind souls,
I have reread these past couple of blog posts several times. So much of what you write, Mari, resonates for me as if I had written it myself, although of course our life circumstances differ. I hope that doesn’t sound presumptuous. Michael—what you pointed out can be confounding for me sometimes—as if I am just not getting ‘it’ and am somehow not far enough along on my ‘journey.’ While this feeling can serve as a gentle wake-up call, sometimes I just feel stupid. It helps to remind myself that those words (‘If all that you see changed within your world is a little less insanity than before, then you have not awakened but still are caught in the nightmare your ego has made’) are a promise and not a scold. Not trying to give you advice here, just speaking from my own limited experience. I understand when you speak of the words being ‘absolutely freeing’ at times. I struggle with this sense of polarity too, a dialectic I think I create for myself. But there are days when things seem like they are supposed to be, somehow. I have had many days like that this summer. Sometimes just parts of days, when the unity and connection feel almost palpable. I had another such day last Sunday, when I got caught in the rain and found myself loving the sudden, immediate drop of water in a sheet onto my body in a bookstore parking lot. I dried off and went to Mass after that–an evening mass–and felt the unity and connection so strongly throughout the whole mass. Then I went to the adoration chapel to do the guardian bit for about an hour, and after a few minutes I drifted to the little bookshelf in a corner of the chapel. Not many books there. Some old issues of Magnificat, a missal or two, a few Bibles, a book of saints’ lives, and—-Black Elk Speaks. Dumbfounded, I opened the book, which is a very important one for me, and here is exactly what I read: “Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy…
But anywhere is the center of the world.”
Now, this was not a coincidence, I don’t think. I had, just a few minutes before I ran across the book, been thinking with gratitude and longing about the amazingly generous and loving sweat lodge community I am a part of and feeling a little bit guilty for choosing the lodge over my Cistercian lay associate group’s upcoming monthly gathering day. But the sweat lodge group has been a powerful agent of healing for me, and I feel Jesus so strongly in ceremony there, in myself and others and just in general. It’s hard to relate how the feeling of connectedness and unity relates to events, and I don’t think it always does. Nor do I think it always amounts to a ‘feeling’ in the moment. Still—the rest of that night was so beautiful for me. On the drive home I had the thought to stop and buy some flowers to put with my icons. Some flowers for Jesus, actually. So I did—a little mini rose bush in a pot from a grocery store I don’t usually frequent. But on this night, as I was leaving, the sun was setting, and it was outrageously beautiful. I tried to capture the beauty with my camera phone but it was too much. Then I realized a bagging clerk had been standing by me waiting to go corral the carts. He said, “pretty, ain’t it?’ and gave me a quiet but beatific smile. I said yes and he said he didn’t want to get in my way. There was just something about his participation in that rather ordinary moment of beauty that felt infused with Christ. Of course, these things felt like this because I was letting myself into them. I was opening my heart. It can be so hard to do this! But when I do, it is, as Catherine of Siena once said, totally clear to me that nothing is missing, that ‘I cannot lose anything in this place of abundance I have found.’
I just wanted to say how touched I was by what you have shared here. My own journey began in earnest with a sweat lodge community and so all I need do is hear your words and I feel as I have an understanding of its importance to you. It takes me right to a quiet space inside that reverberates with meaning and power. I have a good friend to whom Jesus appeared during a vision quest, and so for me these “paths” have long been interwoven…
I share your feelings regarding that passage I shared, as I hope you understood. It cuts me, too, at times. But that cutting is a false interpretation I work to overcome. I find that whether it is in response to a passage such as that, or to a difficulty in my life, that my false perceptions always feel like perfectly inescapable traps… That I’m hopeless or something… It’s a good plan on the part of us that chose separation– to inspire within us the feeling we’re broken and must turn to what little of separation is available to us as something to which we might cling… At least, we have this… But then those moments arrive like you have described, and the darkness disperses like a startled field of crows. And is gone…
One day they’ll be eating from our hands, from a basket that never empties, and is shared by the young child within us…
Michael, what a soulful response, and so “you.” You being you and me being me–this is a little like the feeling you express about that quote you share from the Prelude. This being of who we are is like that to me. Like something freeing and at the same time something fraught with the risk of freedom. I remember a place, I think in The Way of Mary, where Jesus is trying to say that our purpose here is to be who we are . . . and yet that it is more than that. It felt like a convoluted piece of writing as I received it, and still feels that way. But this is a convoluted undertaking in a way. Like purpose is returned to us, but yet . . . we’re not to “think” in those terms. The purpose is inherently there. The time seems to be here to accept the convolution. Your dance image really speaks to me of this. Because I have this sense of something “started” as in your dance move. It starts, and then you twirl off.
No wonder we need companions on the way, right?
Thank you for being my companion.
Mari, I loved the way the circles you began with linked up together into something that could point me into the peace of this moment. I was reading some of the very first chapters of the Course of Love, and maybe it was in the Prelude when Jesus said that if our world just seems a little better, or a little more tolerable, we haven’t embrace the truth of who we are fully… Let me see if I can find it…
“If all that you see changed within your world is a little less insanity than before, then you have not awakened but still are caught in the nightmare your ego has made.”
This is one of those statements that can, in some moments, feel absolutely freeing, and in others feel as though it compounds suffering onto suffering… I am always amazed at the absolute dichotomy of responses that I feel when faced with such an opening: either running through it, or feeling as though it is part of the cage keeping me fixed, and pinned to the floor. There doesn’t seem to really be a middle ground…
But letting these bubbles of thought, these whispers and premonitions link up… that feels like a way of dissolving the entire conundrum. Like we just leave it behind… I’m sitting here, witnessing and connecting up to this feeling of your being change, as best I can, and thinking of all the change swirling about, and it feels really beautiful. It’s just a feeling– not easy to have for my own swirling pandemonium– but I can see it through your writing here. Like the way people in a formal dance come together, twirl for a moment, then spiral off in new directions… Bubbles forming, linking, dissolving… But the whole pattern is simply one of grace… Of completeness…