Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist once said that as he grew older he came to understand that it was not ideas that changed the world, but simple gestures of love given to the people around you, and sometimes to those you feel most at odds with. He wrote that in order to save the world, you must serve the people in your life. “You gradually struggle less and less for an idea,” Merton wrote, “and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”
Over the past few months my activity has revolved around my sister’s illness and her treatment and family. I had thought maybe my world would feel smaller as I stopped traveling and speaking as much as I usually do, as I scaled back at work, as I said “no” to invitations and events. But the opposite is true. My world is bigger than ever, if love is the measuring stick. When ego is the measuring the stick, the world never feels big enough. But love makes big from small.
I am not saying we should abandon all efforts to save the world, Continue reading
The photos below were taken in the meditation garden at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, VA. Currently “between houses,” I’ve been staying temporarily with my mom, who lives several blocks away from A.R.E. Although my brother and mother have both lived in this area of Virginia Beach for many years, I’ve never known of the garden’s existence until this visit, discovering it one day when I was out for a walk and decided to explore the grounds of the complex.
The garden isn’t large, but it’s a lovely oasis, just yards from busy Atlantic Avenue, and the waterfall feature effectively drowns out most exterior noises. I’ve made the garden a destination on my morning walks with my dog, sitting by the waterfall and…well, mostly just sitting. I meditate sometimes, but most days I just appreciate the opportunity to spend a few minutes in such beautiful surroundings. The photos don’t really do it justice, but I hope you can get a sense of the place all the same.
The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.
Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
Every year I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing, and which shirking pain, misses happiness as well. No one ever yet was the poorer in the long run for having once in a lifetime “let out all the length of all the reins.”
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller. Wanting situations and relationships to be solid, permanent, and graspable obscures the pith of the matter, which is that things are fundamentally groundless…
Whether it’s ourselves, our lovers, bosses, children, local Scrooge, or the political situation, it’s more daring and real not to shut anyone out of our hearts and not to make the other into an enemy. If we begin to live like this, we’ll find that we actually can’t make things completely right or completely wrong anymore, because things are a lot more slippery and playful than that. Everything is ambiguous; everything is always shifting and changing, and there are as many different takes on any given situation as there are people involved. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.
pathwriter’s note: I’ve had the Dreamcatcher album by Secret Garden for a very long time; I listen to it from time to time when I need to turn inward and reconnect with my inner being. This song in particular often helps me release pent-up emotions that I didn’t even know were pent up…sometimes the tears just flow and flow, providing a much-needed catharsis. Other times, it carries me to a deeply peaceful place.
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.
This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.
~Rumi (from Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks)
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Everything terrible is something that needs our love.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype