How the Light Gets In

On the afternoon before the opening weekend of Living from the Heart at Bethlehem Centre on Vancouver Island, I took a walk around Westwood Lake to allow my jostled soul to settle. That morning, I’d read the poem Vessel by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It invited me to be a vessel that opens to God’s light. I echoed that desire and sighed. Would I be settled and open enough to let light in?

I set an intention to notice whenever I was feeling anxious and to invite myself to relax and open to God.

Because of COVID, we had distanced fixed seating. So every time I sat down for our gatherings, I returned to the same two participants on either side of me. They were so lovely, I felt like I was coming home each time I sat between them.

Saturday evening before we began, I got chatting to the woman on my left. I was so relaxed that I forgot I was the one who was speaking first. As soon as I realized it was me that was on, I looked at my watch. We should have started five minutes ago! I got everyone’s attention and asked someone to relight the Christ candle and sound the singing bowl. After a moment of silence, I opened my binder and suddenly realized I had missed reviewing this section of notes when I went over the course content the day before. I stumbled through an explanation of assignments and then accidentally changed the order of what we were doing next, which affected my co-facilitators, Audrey and Brent.

At the close of the evening, I apologized to them for messing up. Audrey told me not to worry about it. Brent just smiled and said, “Oh, you wonderful human.”

The next day Audrey led us through a prayer of imagination. In it, I met Jesus who was so kind to me. When it came to the part of the story where Bartemeus followed Jesus, I looked up at Jesus. Life would be so much simpler if that’s all I had to do.

Jesus looked at me and smiled, “Just to let you know, I’m a wonderful human too. I don’t always know where I’m going, and I might make some mistakes along the way.”

But you are Jesus and Jesus was sinless, I thought. Then the penny dropped. Mistakes are not sins. Not doing things perfectly is a part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow. It’s how the light gets in.

Later that day we played Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. I heard Jesus again in Cohen’s gravelly voice, “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Forget your perfect offering.
–Leonard Cohen

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Love Mischief for the World

On October 20, 2020, Archbishop Melissa Skelton came to St. Stephen the Martyr to dedicate our Pet Memorial Garden and our newly erected statue of St. Francis. In her homily, she talked about her own dog, Teddy. “At first I felt completely incompetent to care for him. But over time I learned more from Teddy about standing my ground than I had from any assertiveness training. I learned more from Teddy about curiosity than any class I had ever taken. I learned more from Teddy about constancy than I had learned from some of my relationships with human beings. And this is to say nothing about what I learned from Teddy about devotion, about physical closeness, about being alert to the natural world, about finding peace in the midst of anxiety, about joy, and about play. I learned a lot about play!” Then, during the reception, we were delighted to meet Teddy.

Anyone is welcomed to have their pet’s ashes interred in our memorial garden. Arrangements can be made by contacting info@ststephenburnaby.ca.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Photo of Westwood Lake trail by Kevin Brown in alltrails.com.
Autumn sunrise through Bradford pears by Martin LaBar. Used with permission.
Photo of the dedication of St. Stephen’s Pet Memorial Garden by Elaine Renforth. Used with the permission of Elaine Renforth and Archbishop Melissa.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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What Stillness Needs and Offers

When this post is published, I will be at Bethlehem Centre for the opening weekend of this year’s Living from the Heart. Last year we had a new team, new format, new location, and a new intern. It was also my first time coordinating a team.

This year the theme of new things continues. Because retreat centres in the Lower Mainland are not receiving groups, we are going to Vancouver Island–another new location and a new way of doing things due to COVID. One detail that needs to be attended to surfaces, then others, followed by emails or Zoom meetings. It’s hard to relax and trust.

I was at Bethlehem Centre five years ago, leading a contemplative retreat for women. I travelled there with my friends Theresa and Gail.

During the retreat, I talked about stillness. I passed around a jar of pond water and asked each person to name what was going on in them at that moment that made it hard to settle.

“Give the jar a shake before you pass it to the person next to you,” I said. Then, when we were finished passing it around, I set it down.

Over the weekend, the water in the jar turned from cloudy to completely clear. The jar told us what stillness needs and what it offers.

When it was time to pack up and go home, I picked up the jar. Theresa laughed and said, “Don’t shake it!”

I stopped and saw what she saw. I was holding something sacred that had settled in us that weekend. She didn’t want to lose it.

I know what stillness needs; I know what it offers. And I know that right now, I am a shaken up jar.

Even so, You are holding me in Your still hands, inviting me to watch the details settle and see what you see.

Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” —Psalm 46:10 (MSG)

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Love Mischief for the World

It takes a lot of dedication and support to open and maintain a retreat centre.  We are so grateful for the Love Mischief of Bethlehem Centre, located near Nanaimo, B.C. The centre “encourages and supports the expression of beliefs and values about humanity, spirituality, healing and peace. We welcome groups and individuals exploring a spiritual path and seeking a gathering place for education, reflection and community building.”

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Photos Bethlehem Centre by Russell McNeil. Used with permission.
Photo of Bethlehem Retreat Centre building and grounds by Bethlehem Centre.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Mystical, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old-Growth Forest

An old-growth forest. Yellow cedar, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir have been around for centuries, literally. Year after year, they cycle through the seasons and grow imperceptibly taller, more solid, roots extending. That is what I’m becoming.

The slow pace of summer lingers in my body, calling me to come and play outside–walk among the trees, bike into the country. The trees invite me to do ordinary things, enjoy ordinary moments, and let the work of producing come and go.

Autumn to spring my life has been dominated by work. I have gone days without getting outside and when I do, I’m still thinking about work.

This fall feels different. The compulsion to endlessly produce has subsided. Life flows like sap through my trunk, greens around the edges, and bears seed, but most of the time, I’m just standing, being– 

An old-growth forest.

That is what I am becoming, situated in the background, rooted in the organic ecosystem, sending and receiving nutrients underground from a network of love.

For this, I give thanks to my Creator. 

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
–Genesis 1:11,12

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Love Mischief for the World

Fred and I watched the documentary Hadwin’s Judgement. It’s the story of Canadian environmentalist Grant Hadwin and his drastic measures to stop clear-cut logging. It was heartbreaking to see the devastation that he witnessed. Because of more and more people like Hadwin and John Vaillant, who appears in this documentary and wrote about Hadwin in The Golden Spruce, forestry is changing in Canada

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Giant Douglas Fir Trees, Cathedral Grove – MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia by  Miles Green. Used with permission.
Rainforest near Bella Coola by Drew Brayshaw. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Aging, Creation, Justice, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Decomposing

Where do I need to stay when everything in me wants to flee?

As soon as I began asking myself this question, one answer came to me, but I wasn’t brave enough to write about it.

Silence. Silence is the place I need to stay, yet everything in me wants to flee into my thoughts.

How could I admit that to you when I write a contemplative blog and teach about centering prayer and the value of silence and solitude?

Often when I try to pray my brain won’t quit thinking. I face the same problem when I want to sleep. I try focusing on my breath, but just when I begin to feel sleepy, I can’t maintain my focus and slip back into thinking again.

“There’s a skittishness in me when it comes to opening to silence. I’m nervous about something, but I don’t know what,” I told my spiritual director.

She gave me space to welcome my skittishness and God’s presence with me there. The image that came to mind was that my skittishness was like a cat and God was sitting with it, completely relaxed and stroking it. The cat was loving it, her head pushing up against God’s hand.

I felt myself relax as I held that picture and knew I didn’t have to figure out what I was skittish about. It was enough to name it and be with God in it, and then I realized–

“This is prayer!” I said to my director. The very thing I desired and could not do, I entered into simply by naming my reality and being with God in it.

We paused there to take that in.

“How do you see your skittishness now?” my director asked.

“As something to be honoured.”

She waited for me to continue.

“At first, I saw it as something to get rid of, but it’s kind of like the dead logs on the forest floor. In one part of the book The Overstory, a botany professor said that they need to clear the forest floor to help the trees grow. But the botanists that had come to deeply love the forest and listen to the trees knew that a decomposing log gives life to the forest. It’s as if my skittishness is something in me decomposing and giving life to me. Just as I never see that slow work in the forest, I may not see it in myself. But eventually, I will see the results of it.”

So I sat this morning in silence, pressing my head against God’s hand while my mind flitted here and there, decomposing something or other.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

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Love Mischief for the World

My friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator Brent Unrau wrote, “Had a rough patch on Sunday mood-wise until I stumbled upon this light-infused leaf of awe, wonder and still calm. Somehow this little atriplex copper plume leaf bathed in late afternoon sun ushered me into the healing balm of fall. Please take some time to slow yourself down and drink in the veins, the colour, the mood of this leaf, and see how it affects your heart.”
Thank you, Brent!

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Charlie” by Lois Elling. Used with permission.
“Forest” (Wisconsin State Forest by Joshua Mayer. Used with permission.
“Artiplex leaf” by Brent Unrau. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Seeking Truth and Reconciliation

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. If Bill 369 passes in parliament, it will become National Truth and Reconciliation Day. This is a day to wear an orange shirt and renew our intention to acknowledge the violence done to others and ourselves, learn the effects of dehumanization, and choose to live more compassionately.

I began this journey a few years ago by listening to the stories of indigenous people. One story gently led to another. I watched and read Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, learned about Orange Shirt Day from Phyllis Webstad, participated in the Blanket Exercise, saw the Anglican-made documentary Doctrine of Discovery, joined a book group that discussed Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith, attended Children of God, a play written and performed by indigenous people, and went to National Indigenous Day celebrations. Each experience opened my eyes and heart to indigenous people and the truths about their history that needed to be named and grieved.

This led to action. I walked for Truth and Reconciliation, lobbied for Bill C-262, and in June, joined others in our SoulStream community and formally renounced the Doctrine of Discovery. We continue to talk together about what more we can do. Education and self-reflection top the list.

Recently, an indigenous friend introduced me to the podcast All My Relations, and I am learning about blood quantum and native re-appropriations. I have also added Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn to my reading list.

Last week, I listened to Eckhart Tolle: Being in the Now. Tolle told Oprah, “Love is the recognition of yourself in another. . . You can love your neighbour as yourself because you recognize your oneness with your neighbour.” That was a bing-bing moment for me, as Oprah would say. Loving my neighbour as myself doesn’t just mean loving them the way I would like to be loved, but loving them in our oneness. I am them, and they are me, one in Christ.

What I began to see is that the person I judge (and I am not thinking of indigenous people here) as mean, uninteresting, or unimportant is a part of me–the part of me I don’t want to acknowledge that can be mean, uninteresting, or unimportant. When I cut this person off, I cut off a part of myself. But when I am reconciled with these aspects of myself, this changes how I see and respond to others.  As I love myself, I will love them. Or, I could put it this way: as I stop dehumanizing myself, I will stop dehumanizing others.

The action or spiritual practice here is to notice when I’ve judged and disconnected from another, see myself reflected in them, and then welcome that part of me home. For example, when I’m irritated by someone in victim mode, I can take a step back, and remember when I was in their shoes, and offer compassion to that version of myself. That compassion will also be available for them.

In this process of learning, feeling, acting, and reflecting, we become more human. We will be reconciled to ourselves and our neighbours.

[A scribe] asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
–Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)

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Love Mischief for the World

Are you open to God doing some love mischief in your life? Sally Ringdahl and I are offering an Ignatian Silent Retreat online November 6-8. This retreat is designed for anyone who would like a silent, guided prayer retreat, for anyone who is considering participating in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or anyone who would like to experience Ignatian Prayer—Lectio Divina, Gospel Contemplation (Praying with your imagination) and Prayer of Examen. For more information or to register, go to https://soulstream.org/ignatian-prayer-retreat-fall-2020/

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
Photo of sheep by Twila Savigny. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Imperceptibly Shaped

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.  And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow; let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

In summer, water rises through the xylem and disperses out of the million tiny mouths on the undersides of leaves, a hundred gallons a day evaporating from the [chestnut] tree’s airy crown into the humid Iowa air.
Richard Powers, The Overstory

I listen to others
feel their tears
envy their stories
of connection
and transformation

while I
like the trees
have little to say
imperceptibly shaped
by seasons and smoke
yet gallons of water
are released in the air
as I give the Lord
the benefit of believing
that I am being led.

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Love Mischief for the World

This week I watched The Need to Grow, a California-based documentary about the depleted state of the soil due to pesticides and harmful agricultural practices and what an inventor, farmer, and Girl Guide are doing to make a change. They talked about living soil, regenerative agriculture, composting, and seed banks. Right here at home, Jo Tobias, founder of RootShoot Soils, is working “to help farmers regenerate the natural balance and symbiotic relationships between their crops and soil microorganisms.” Jo and Javan Kerby Bernakevitch of All Points Land Design are offering a 12-week online workshop starting November 17th, 2020. Javan and Jo will share knowledge and practical skills to adapt and transition towards regenerative practices conducive to soil life.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Chestnut tree by eltpics. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Mystical, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Impermanence of Things

Fred and I are on vacation in the Okanagan. After we visited my parents in Vernon, we found a campsite north of Oliver. My first bike ride was on the spectacular Okanagan Rail Trail which is flanked by steep rock faces on one side and Kalamalka Lake on the other. “The CN Rail line was constructed in 1925 to bring the produce and lumber of the Okanagan Valley to markets across the country. Challenged with high costs and low revenues, Kelowna Pacific Railway entered receivership and ceased rail service in July 2013 (website).” The Rail Trail was made possible by the impermanence of the rail line.

Summer comes because of the impermanence of spring, and winter from the impermanence of autumn. Whatever I experience–whether I love it or hate it–this too shall pass.

We say, “Nothing lasts forever.” Yet, I’m surprised when the radiator leaks or I break a tooth. I don’t want to believe that nothing lasts forever when times are good, my loved ones are settled, and my favourite foods are on the table.

But, as Anthony de Mello says in his little book, The Way to Love, we’re rarely at ease because we’re either trying to get things we think will make us happy, or we fear losing what we enjoy. De Mello reminded me that these impermanent things may give us pleasure, but they can’t make us happy.

The failure to recognize the impermanence of things makes me fear death, illness, and change. Every job, every relationship, every hope or dream will eventually end. Two questions I’ve been walking with are: What is in my cave that I’m afraid of, and how might God be wanting to meet me there and turn my fear into courage? God does not alleviate my fears by telling me I won’t lose my life, my loved ones, or my health, but by telling me I will, and that it’ll be okay.

When I told my grandson, Hadrian, that I too may be on the autism spectrum, he had this piece of advice for me. “Expect things to change.”

Expect change. Expect things to quit working. Expect them to end.

His wisdom brings me some peace when something goes wrong or when I catch myself hoping life will continue on as it is when I see how well my parents are doing at 87 and 92.

I suppose the impermanence of things could compel me to make sure I get the most out of every moment I have. But that feels like trading one compulsion for another.

It’s enough for me to remember when I’m faced with disappointment or enjoying a spectacular view that this too shall pass. Happiness is not found in holding onto what brings me joy. Happiness is knowing we are in Love and always will be.

For everything, there is a season.
–Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

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Love Mischief for the World

Fred found Let’s Go Biking: Okanagan & Beyond by Colleen MacDonald in Oliver’s Visitors’ Centre. It showed us a way to avoid the hills on the west side of Skaha Lake and will be instrumental when my sibs come west for our next biking vacation. MacDonald is the author of the popular biking blog Let’s Go Biking and the guidebook Let’s Go Biking Around Vancouver. She has cycled all over the world and still thinks British Columbia is one of the best places to cycle. (from letsgobiking.net)

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Okanagan Rail Trail looking north to Coldstream” from TripAdvisor.
“Blueberry” by Hannah Nieman. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Aging, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

That Person

Where do I need to stay when everything in me wants to flee?
Where do I need to leave when everything in me wants to stay?

I’ve been thinking about these questions from last week’s post and Tara Brach’s invitation to be a receptive presence to another. I recalled a conversation I had that I really wanted to get out of. Someone was talking a lot, and I wasn’t interested in what they were saying. It takes effort to listen to that person sometimes.

I also remember two conversations in which I was the one who talked a lot about what my friends might not be interested in. As soon as this came to my awareness, I quickly apologized for talking too much. I didn’t want to be “that person.”

Then I saw it: two places where I need to stay. I need to stay with the person who requires effort to be with, and I need to risk being “that person.” If it’s good to stay present and listen to another, it’s good for others to stay present to me. As I write that, I feel myself tense up.

Now I see the places from which I need to flee: judgment and pride. I judge another as boring or irritating. I pride myself in being neither.

What if I let that go? What if it’s okay to be bored or irritated? What if I let those feelings be there and see what else emerges as I remain present to myself and to the other person?

Fred and I were camping with our grandkids on the weekend. By 8:30 it was dark and too early to go to bed, so I asked Hadrian if he wanted to go for a walk around the campground. I was pleased that he said yes, and then I realized why he agreed.

“In Minecraft . . . ,” he said, as we began. I know little about this video game, nor do I want to. We walk and he talks, and I can’t follow what he’s saying. But I love being with him. Maybe that’s how my friends feel about me too.

Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.
–Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

I’ve been a vegan for six months now and finding places to eat out has been a challenge. I’m grateful for restaurants that serve a couple of things I can eat, but I love it when I can choose from anything on the menu. This week I tried out Virtuous Pie. They make their own plant-based cheese and their pizza is delicious. I also like the V-Cafe in New West and the Chickpea in Vancouver. Hadrian’s new favourite is Sun Bo Kong in East Van. I love their tag line: “Eat right–for the love of our animal friends and our beautiful planet.” I’d add: and for Hadrian’s children and grandchildren.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Brown Deer under Tree by Photo by Devon Rockola from Pexels. CCO Creative Commons
Dog and Cat by 紫流. Used with permission.
Image of pizza from Virtuous Pie.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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The Wisdom of Tara Brach and Pádraig Ó Tuama

Last week’s Love Mischief led me to a talk by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Before I had a chance to listen to it, this short video from Tara Brach landed in my inbox.

What came up for me as I listened to Tara is how beautifully and easily a receptive presence can turn an experience of irritation and displeasure into an opportunity for love and transformation. Receptive presence requires three things: intention, inner listening, and opening to another. It requires staying with yourself and the other person when everything in you wants to flee.

The next day, I listened to Pádraig Ó Tuama. In his talk “In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World,” he begins with this quote.

To turn from everything to one face is to find one’s self face to face with everything. —Elizabeth Bowen. 

And this one:

When you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded becomes the centre.– Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

When Pádraig was twenty-five years old, a dream, a sermon, and a National Geographic article led him to enter the very cave he was afraid of and find himself and God there. This eventually gave him the courage to leave the places where he wasn’t safe and didn’t belong and released him to live more fully “with integrity as a loving presence in the world.”

Pádraig talked about the power of language and of story and how reconciliation and healing can happen when we tell our stories again, leaving space to hear something new in them.

So I listened again to my story of how I felt punched in the gut. What I didn’t tell you when I wrote that post was that I was dismissed from a volunteer job managing the Wednesday Lunch Club, an outreach ministry I started ten years before. Within months of that sad event, the volunteers from St. Stephen the Martyr who had been helping out at the Lunch Club and I started hosting a community meal at St. Stephen’s. Eventually, the Wednesday Lunch Club was relocated there as well.

As I look back on it now, I realize that for a long time the church that first hosted the Lunch Club was unhappy with the way it was being run, but I didn’t want to hear it. I kept trying to make it work. I was trying to stay where I didn’t belong.

Something else in Pádraig’s talk stood out for me. He said that in American sign language, the sign for courage begins with the sign for fear and moves out from it. Courage begins with entering our fear.

Eventually, these questions came to me.

    • Where do I need to stay when everything in me wants to flee?
    • Where do I need to leave when everything in me wants to stay?
    • What is in my cave that I’m afraid of?
    • How might God be wanting to meet me there and turn my fear into courage?

So I am walking, biking, and praying with these questions. Perhaps you will listen to Tara and Pádraig and find questions of your own. Maybe even these ones.

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Here is a poem by Pádraig Ó Tuama. You may also want to listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with Pádraig on On Being or watch his Ted Talk Imagining Peace. More “Tara Talks” can be found here, and there are links to numerous videos and podcasts by Tara Brach on her website and on Youtube.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
The image of flowers on post banner is “Stand Again” by Joel Olives. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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The Big Reveal

(Warning: This video contains strong language.)

Comedian Hannah Gadsby begins her new show, Douglas, by telling her audience what to expect. “This way I can meet your expectations–or alter them,” she says with a smile. Gadsby goes on to say that partway through the show, “The lights will come in, I’ll sit on this stool here, and there’ll be a ‘big reveal’.” The big reveal is that she has autism.

I sat there, gobsmacked. For most of her life, Gadsby didn’t know she was on the spectrum. Wow. And despite having autism–or perhaps because of it–she has become very successful.

Slowly over the next two days, I began to connect the dots. Our grandson, Hadrian has high-functioning autism. Like Hadrian, I can be intensely focussed on a special interest and instantly upset when plans get changed unexpectedly. I can be blunt and unaware of other people’s feelings.

When I expressed my suspicions to a couple of friends, they listened compassionately without questioning me. I was onto something.

Two online tests I completed indicated that I may have borderline high-functioning autism. In those tests, I saw more evidence of autism: I tend to notice and get
disturbed by small sounds that others may not notice or care about. I have difficulty putting myself in another person’s shoes. It takes effort to be a good diplomat. I somehow get into tricky or complicated situations. It takes me longer than others to get a joke.

As a longtime ally to a loved one with autism, I know that people on the spectrum can learn to compensate for these tendencies, and I have. But it takes effort. I need more time and calmness to get there.

When I talked about my revelation with my spiritual director, I cried through most of the session. She asked me about my tears.

“I’m relieved to understand why some things are so hard for me and what contributed to hurtful events,” I said, then teared up again. “And I feel such compassion from God. I’m not selfish, as I have believed for so long. I’m just wired differently.”

I went on to say that I can see how being wired this way has been a gift. “Being on the spectrum has helped me write my blog vulnerably without being held back by how my words might affect others.”

The week it all came together, I wrote and posted this poem. Last week God gave me this prayer: May I live with integrity as a loving presence in the world.

Living with integrity means I need to be an ally and lovingly present to myself now as I see myself and the world through new eyes. I sense such tenderness from God who calls all created things good.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 –Psalm 139:13-14a (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

Kei Miller’s poem ‘Book of Genesis’ asks us to imagine a God who makes things spring into life specifically for us,” writes Pádraig Ó Tuama in Poetry Unbound. “Just as the poet of Genesis proclaims, ‘Let there be,’ Miller wonders what freedom and flourishing we’d find in imagining a ‘Let’ pronounced not for the person others say we should be, but for the person we are.”  Click here to listen to Ó Tuama read and comment on this “Poem for Letting Yourself Be.” Miller, who was born and raised in Jamaica, is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Exeter. His books of poetry include The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, winner of the Forward poetry prize, There Is an Anger That Moves, and A Light Song of Light. His novels include The Last Warner Woman and most recently, Augustown.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Artwork and photo Knit Together by Kelly Dycavinu © 2011. Used with permission.
Photo of Kei Miller from his Facebook page.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Poetry, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments