Prayer for the Inmost Light

Beloved Creator, God of the Universe, open my inward vision to the beauty of your hidden presence. This morning, each day, in all places, may my mind be seeking you in love and delight, most Beautiful Presence. May I be able to see you and know you when you appear in the grace of the world. Fill my mind with good thoughts and deep joy. You are the One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures. Inspire my words and actions to reflect your delgiht, great Light who never expires. You make the darkness shimmer in the night with the stars of your inmost light.

 

 

Originally Written April 2nd, 2016

Photo by Mark Kamalov on Unsplash

Greatly Loved In Its Wildness

I’m an ex-cradle-born-Unitarian Universalist for good reasons. I’m politically moderate. I converted to sparkly Roman Catholicism at age 21. I am Jewish-curious, and am deeply attracted by their cohesive peoplehood and long, honorable struggle with a crazy God. When I was 22, I did something like animism and nature-based rites of passage in a community, but that community didn’t stick, even though the spirituality sure did. I don’t believe in fairies, I believe in birds. I don’t believe in unicorns, I believe in equines. I don’t believe in dragons, I believe in reptiles. The World is what’s real. Prayers and spells don’t save you; human research and evidence-based practices do, but a really grounded spirituality makes it all worth living through. Now I’m a scientific panentheist (is it really necessary to differentiate between pantheist and panentheist? Really?) who believes in a Creator that lives, breathes and moves in all created beings. I don’t claim that this Creator is always or ever going to do as we wish, or can even be trusted the conventional sense, though it can be greatly loved in its wildness. Nature is violent, insane and unjust, and we have every reason to think that any Creator who wrought it might be the same way. But Nature is also, simultaneously, beautiful, life-giving and deeply good. And so the same must be for this mysterious Creator. Such is life on earth. Sometimes I wish I were born in an Animist hunter-gatherer tribe of 30,000 years ago. Then again, I’m grateful for the gift of reason, evidence, vaccines, the internet and refrigerators. What I want most of all is a real tribe I can belong to. I wander, but I am not lost.

 

 

 

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

Writing Wisdom from Philip Zaleski

“Words have consequences; writing is a moral act,” writes Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. “To recognize this pays a triple dividend, for it inoculates us against the three daily literary devices of pandering to popular taste, creative laziness, and didacticism. The last item may surprise those who fear that any talk of moral writing will unleash an army of bluenoses ready to censor at will or of apparatchiks who will demand a political subtext to every sentence. But such worries stem from misunderstanding the obligations placed upon us by the nature of the craft. To write ugly prose, or to cripple one’s language to meet the standards of the day, or to warp one’s creation into a political placard -all this is to write immorally. The task of the spiritual writer is to uphold truth and beauty at whatever cost, in whatever way his art demands.”

 

 

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

Benedicite

The following is adapted from a letter recently written to an acquaintance.

Well, sir, you showed up in my dreams for the past two nights in a row. It’s a record. I’ll keep you informed if you-or-your-apparition shows up again. You never can tell, these strange days on the wide earth, who’s who wandering where in the Lord’s lands.

I’ll take it as a clue from The World that you must be greatly anticipating the transcription of our interview. Ha! It’s on its way. I’m learning how remarkably full one’s time becomes when one starts a business. I hope to not believe too greatly in it, however, and to remain utterly insubordinate. Tom Robbins warned, “Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”

Here’s hoping my rambunctious exit adieu to the school staff didn’t make you blush too hard, now.

Let me know if you get this. I think once in a different time I emailed you or something and I didn’t hear back. Or maybe I dreamt it –who knows? Something about meeting an old blind woman with a dog, and my helping to walk her home, and there was our country made new again. It really happened, one night, when I was the last of all souls to leave. But I think you either did not receive it, or were like, “whatever.” :)

What dreams have come to visit you? It’s in this time of the darkening, turning year that these animal dreams of humanity do ache in the chest all the more. Visions seep hind-wards and earth-wards into memory of family and home, the recollection of fire, the passing of faces across the grey sea between one pair of closing eyes and another.

Benedicite,
Gentle J. Pine

“I kneel to sow between the Lord’s fingers
by way of the Almighty’s hand
on this earth that is growing
this glade that is coming up.
Old woman of underground
soil-dame, earth-mistress,
now set the sward pushing up
the strong earth heaving!
The earth will not want for strength
ever in this world
while there’s love from the givers
and tending from nature’s daughters.”

                The Kalevala of Finland

Laughing in Mountains

 

 

Beloved, Beloved,

come out from within things,

as you look out from within things,

from the eyes of your creatures,

from the spark of creation

as from the inside of a tree

there comes fire.

Come down, o love Divine,

and complete my half-written words

for your glory, my love,

for your beauty, my love,

so that all creatures

may seek you and know you.

Most beautiful!

The One who is love incarnate!

Follow my heartbeat, as I follow yours,

tracking your footsteps in the land.

My face, sometimes it is sorrowful.

If you may look upon me in love,

even in these times,

not turning your sun from me

even in these times,

then surely not a sparrow falls

without your swooping down

on mother-bird wings

to comfort and carry

each home.

You lead me

through vine thickets and brambles

to see the great stag leap

from his cavern!

Most beautiful Lord,

friend of plants, laughing in mountains,

draw from my mouth the good words

for hearts sorely in want of you.

 

 

 

image source: Creative Commons CC0

A Child of the West

“And where are the fancy ideas about Western vanity now, the arrogance of persons and the limits of individualism?

 

Be careful how fast you dispose of the individual self and its pretensions. If the self is no longer inviolable, evil will violate it. And who will there be to judge that this is wrong?

 

I remain a child of the West, and a grateful one…. This small self is the gift, and burden, I have, and am. It is the self who goes out into the world to see how the others live. It is the same self who calls murder, murder.”

–Todd Gitlin, A Skull In Varanasi, A Head in Baghdad

 

 

image source: Creative Commons CC0

Ruach and Scripturing (Flowers Don’t Get Distracted)

You think you know what you want to say, but get out of the way. Creativity says something bigger than planned, always. It’s hiding to leap, crouching gargoyle crying beautiful night howl, the marvelous night! What love is this! How glimmering the comfort of shadows! Walk into my dark wings! Great black wings to spread over the heart of the dark earth and go chanting your praise, good Wild God, you who live in both shadows and light. You, who drink hidden light, hidden in darkness. From the moon, from the fertile earth rip rolling wet soul under changeling dark castle in the low place love chakra get the words out of from undermind where the real poetry lives. Bring on back to the everyday the true knowledge of what is. Make the dreams live, the ones indescribable –babble– because you want to stay there where the holy is. His arms will hold you. Now, deeper into the soul of the world. Land, boxes and tunnels of animal’s of earth, He needs you. I will not forsake you. Even there the Christ-love sleeps and wakes and takes his pleasure in falling and rising by the season of day, ruach breathe in and out. Christ–love isn’t worried about linear time. He’s down here already. 

…….

I used to write for approval. Now I write for the craft I know I am called to by The Beautiful One who makes the stars and the world. That’s makes in the present tense, I say. Always happening and we’re participating. It’s a big job, being human. Being animal or plant sure is too. It’s a rare gift to be one of these and not nothing at all.

I write for God who is the Beloved. To know the Beloved Creator in great affection and friendship is the most satisfying voyage. I think I feel what the tellers of the old bible stories felt when they wrote for God. They focused on the Beloved, and it was spontaneous, and that was the only that mattered. Divine inspiration is absolutely spontaneous, as is understanding. This is what makes ever disjointed the literalism of our time. Of written history. I call scripturing the putting together of free form thought for the love of the Holy. This is where great writing comes from. It is poverty to say there has been only a small set of absolute scriptures with the answers forever. Poverty! It is a dire poverty of the mind to be so absolute. We must mind the muses, holy spirits, tongues of fire in the poets today not so different from ages ago, from Isaiah. God, who does not fear compost, of tuning the shit we’re afraid of into soil and food to sustain us, you are most worthy of unshackled wonder. By writing the world we access the world larger than us, give it praise, meld with it. When I am in pain I know it is not my pain alone, but the world’s pain, and I do not carry it alone. So be a flower who is loved by the sun and does not worry about its own life, when it blossoms or when it dies. Flowers don’t get distracted by crazy heads like we humans. They’re always being as the Lord of Love made them to be, in their direction. It knows it will be back again. It knows it exists in the great belly of life who is its Beloved.

 

 

 

Images © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.

The Swallows

 

When I was a child I told my spiritual father

that I had moments of insight,

fashes of understanding, like the wings of swallows

swooping into a city with a message to tell

that humankind must remember.

It was beyond explaining to grown-ups,

though I knew I had to help save them.

My spiritual father said,

“Remember these moments that come to you.

Remember, write them down,

Or they will slip away like birds.”

And I watch the way my thoughts fly

like they do not want to be captured,

cannot be told once and for all time

in the tradition of writing.

I follow the swallows out to the fields,

a pair of lovebirds chasing each other,

friends of the light.

How carefully close they come to the dark earth,

the tall grass brushing their scintillant feathers

like breath, one word of beauty before leaving,

a reminder to humankind

who is forgetful.

 

 

image source: public domain

A Path of Devotion

Welcome back to The Leafy Paw! Here’s a new post, after a while. I got distracted (and lazy) and started making excuses for not writing. I do that because, for people who feel called to a path of devotion, sometimes it is intimidating to do what we really know we must. It can seem like too huge a task ahead, no matter how small the daily steps. But in these months away from writing, since last Fall, I have been still doing Good Deeds: learning to think differently about many things, such as how I approach tasks that cause some anxiety. This has helped me return to writing, and keep up my other practices. “From discipline comes freedom,” said Aristotle. And the magic of learning to live and act in a sacred manner is to always return to the path with compassion for ourselves. The path calls us consistently, and does not reprimand us when we return. It simply is.

It was something I heard once about writing; don’t wait for inspiration to come. Be an open faucet, through which water flows. The water will not flow when the faucet is closed. Funny and true, when I begin writing an email to friends, suddenly a lot of satisfying writing comes pouring out, and I hadn’t written intentionally in some time. But without forethought, the flow of thought into life appears.

This morning, in a yoga class, I found that the moves did not exhaust me quite like they did several months ago when I was pushing hard past barriers of learning those new physical poses. So it’s true then, what Sakyong Mipham says in his excellent book, Running With the Mind of Meditation: we may have been away from our practice for a time, but upon returning, we might find we are doing better than we thought. Ah- there it is again, forethought clouding our heads! How sweet is the non-thought way of animals who live lightly in their minds and fully in their bodies. I experience this, finally…) We haven’t lost everything in our time away, in fact the time away may have subtly empowered our actions, making us better prepared to return to a discipline. I’ve been running lately, and I’m really pleased with how this practice has improved my way of thinking about approaching tasks of difficulty, whether in physicality, writing, or keeping a consistently upright mind when I encounter obfuscating distraction on the sacred way of daily life. It is this: Don’t worry about what you haven’t done. Think only about what you can do right now. It applies to keeping an upright mind in everything. The human mind is full of ghosts. We can drown ourselves in thoughts of what we have or haven’t done, in useless regrets about how something isn’t a certain way. That is not an ounce helpful. It is greater instead to think about what small act of devotion we can practice in this moment, and these moments are what really count. Looking back over a life of these many present moments, we are pleased with a life well-lived. So I think about what is right and good already –in my own life, in my species, in the beautiful world– and from this, the energy of action comes. Sakyong Mipham says, “The mind benefits from stillness. The body benefits from movement.”

I have found that action is truly secondary to being. From being comes action, not the other way around. It’s alarming to see the temptation to be caught up in unaware action without remembering your own core of being. There’s a be-er in that do-er. Give the be-er within the credit for being a vessel of all this crazy action we expect of our lives. But I am very content to be a be-er. I suspect this is why I never get bored. By not dwelling so much on the heavy forethought of doing, and instead lightly showing up to be, from this the right action will come, sustainably and with good energy.

 

photo© 2013 Gentle J. Pine

The Wheel of the Year –Behind and Below

cologne-cathedral-1505541_1920

The wheel of the year is turning, and we go now into the darker time of reflection and recollection; of looking, in the words of Michael Meade, “behind and below” to the places where the Soul comes from and is intuitively acquainted with. It is the time of the ancestors when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Night falls and surrounds us. The fire is lit. We go inward.

I dreamt I saw my grandpa again, and he was both alive and dead. He was lying just underneath the earth’s surface, only a little way down below the cradle-like embrace of the soft soil. I remembered where he lay, in my dream, though in the waking world he has been cremated. I knew I had to go to him, and take up from his grave something which had been nearly forgotten and buried underneath him. With my hands I removed the blanket of dust from over him, and, seeing his characteristic bald fore-head first, knew that he had been only sleeping there, having not disintegrated, waiting as if in a peaceful nap for resurrection to dawn. He looked old as I always knew him, but not weary: his eyes opened and fluttered, as if to gleam at me catching him in his mid-afternoon sleep in his chair when I was a child. I missed him sorely, wanted him to come up from the earth and be with us again, but he had embarked into the place where time is not like how it is here. “Only a little while longer,” I said with a tear. “Yes, only a little more sleep,” he smiled. And I felt the nearness of all of those who have come before me, knowing that they, too, are asleep for only a little while, though it seems an eternity to us who have not yet crossed over. They are alive in death in a way I cannot explain. I pulled the blanket of the earth back over him, letting the Otherworld hold him, as it must be. The ancestors are alive in the arms of the Great Mother. When we awoke, my husband and I found that we had both dreamt of our grandfathers.

 

Thomas Lynch writes in his book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade,

The bodies of the newly dead are not debris nor remnant, nor are they entirely icon or essence. They are, rather, changelings, incubates, hatchlings of a new reality that bear our names and dates, our image and likenesses, as surely in the eyes and ears of our children and grandchildren as did word of our birth in the ears of our parents and their parents. It is wise to treat such new things tenderly, carefully, with honor.”

 

And I dreamt there was a rite of passage in a forest, and the forest was dark and green, and my people whom I love were there, leading the way. The beginning and the end I do not remember, but there were flowers in the night which were colors I have no name for: I was permitted to see these colors for but a moment, and no longer. Black was the night and wet, but warm, and there were lights of mysterious making in the thicket where we were going. With my mind I could move pieces of wood and whole trees, strong with the muscles of invisible wings. I had gone into the forest to find this gift which was waiting for me. With a desire, a motion of the mind, fallen wood levitated from the ground when I willed it, and I could feel my spirits lift with the lifting of the forest, a swift leap of the heart.

The night before last I was in a small town on the top of a very dry hill, vegetated with sagebrush and dust, but we were not thirsty. It was Christmas at midnight, but it was not dark. The sun, or I think it was a light so many times greater and more beautiful than the sun, shone through the clear window before me in the cathedral which I had come to worship in. Remember what true worship is: the giving of the heart completely. I heard these words around me in that place. The light before me was the brightest white-gold I had ever seen, but it did not blind me or overwhelm me. To look into it was to see more clearly. There was music from the cathedral’s quartet, and I was peaceful and at home, having forgotten, as in another dream, the weight of the waking world behind me. (Journal entry 11.7.2013)

 

The author Starhawk wrote in her book, The Spiral Dance,

“Male shamans dressed in skins and horns in identification with the God and the herds; but female priestesses presided naked, embodying the fertility of the Goddess. Life and death were a continuous stream; the dead were buried as if sleeping in a womb, surrounded by their tools and ornaments, so that they might awaken to a new life. In the caves of the Alps, skulls of the great bears were mounted in niches, where they pronounced oracles that guided the clans to game. In lowland pools, reindeer does, their bellies filled with stones that embodied the souls of deer, were submerged in the waters of the Mother’s womb, so that victims of the hunt would be reborn.”

I cannot shake the feeling that every night’s sleep is a small death, a practice in surrendering to the irresistible return to the Cradle of Life. We lie down and pass over the veil temporarily, while the umbilical cord of breath yet anchors us safely to this side: we go and journey to the places and people we come from, and will return to.

“And if we do not sleep,” T once said, “the Other Side comes to us.”

(Sleep deprivation creates otherworldly hallucinations. It is not surprising that the brain would do this, but rather the content matter of the visions themselves. Are they not eerily relevant to whatever we yearn for or plagues us? And why is it the content of dreams, visions, mirages and hallucinations are so unremarked upon by investigative researchers? As if exactly what you dream about has no relevance?)

I talk to people I can’t see. I talk to the people in my head, in the land, in history, in what is to come. I talk to my dead cat, and to my grandma when I am a thousand miles away without a phone, and I know that they can somehow hear me. I talk to my grandpa whose body is now ashes in the mountains, and to my mom and dad in a world where they are different, where they are whole. I see them as they shall be, dressed in white and sitting beside a clear river with no more anger. I talk to my ancestors of Old Europe. I hear them singing their songs of mead hall, boats and forests, field and hunt and home and dance, love songs and war songs and silly songs and songs for hellos and goodbyes, blue eyes and wild long hair in the misty forests no longer standing. I talk to the ancestors of the land I live on and I ask them to forgive us and see us now and know that we are learning. I talk to animals when I chance to see them, and I wonder if they choose to show themselves, if they know that same great love that they may bless me with it. I talk to my friends though I cannot see them, and it seems that each are just around that near corner, waiting. I recount their loved faces that I may not forget. Even when I did not know him I talked to my husband whose name and face I did not know, but whom I yearned to meet soon. I told him I missed him and I love him and there is this hugeness of all this love beyond myself that comes up from the center of me like the moment of the world’s creation. I talk to my children of someday, even if they don’t come out of my body, if I never meet them, and I wonder how their lives may be and what it would be like to love them as a mother loves. And all of these are saints to me, who gather around us in love, eager to draw near to this world. I feel them with us, the Communion of Saints. When I lie awake at the edge of the great sea of sleep, I sometimes hear them, every one from all the days of the earth gathered together. They are in a place known only in part to this world where Love lives without weariness, without end. (Journal entry 11.1.2013)

 

 

Photo by UlrichG, pixabay.com