Blue Socks for the Journey

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Last month I went on a silent retreat at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre near Paris. In exploring the beautiful property and beyond, in peaceful quiet, I was able to slow down, reflect and simply be. It was a good time out to catch my breath and clear my thoughts.

Activities were put out for us to pursue if we wished, colouring mandalas, creating prayer beads, and poems to contemplate. I loved the fairytale images in this poem by the tremendous Canadian poet Lorna Crozier.

Packing for the Future: Instructions

Take the thickest socks.
Wherever you’re going
you’ll have to walk.

There may be water.
There may be stones.
There may be high places
you cannot go without
the hope socks bring you,
the way they hold you
to the earth.

At least one pair must be new,
must be blue as a wish
hand-knit by your mother
in her sleep.
Take a leather satchel,
a velvet bag an old tin box –
a salamander painted on the lid.

That is to carry that small thing
you cannot leave. Perhaps the key
you’ve kept though it doesn’t fit
any lock you know,
the photograph that keeps you sane,
a ball of string to lead you out
though you can’t walk back
into that light.

In your bag leave room for sadness,
leave room for another language.

There may be doors nailed shut.
There may be painted windows.
There may be signs that warn you
to be gone.Take the dream
you’ve been having since
you were a child, the one
with open fields and the wind
sounding.
Mistrust no one who offers you
water from a well, a songbird’s feather,
something that’s been mended twice.
Always travel lighter
than the heart.

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Water Restores

With easy access to water through our municipal water systems, tidied away in faucets and pipes, drains and culverts, we take it for granted. Today I invite you to reflect on the restorative powers of water.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have
settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
Mary Oliver

This short video by artist Maik Thomas offers a visual meditation on a quiet pond. Sit down, breathe deeply and take a break beside the water.

Canadian Wonder

A couple of Sunday mornings past I drove down to the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga after spending a few days with my fellow Canadian Unitarian Council board members at the Ecology Retreat Centre in Hockley Valley. We’d had gorgeous weather on Saturday, with the just beginning to colour leaves glowing in the sunshine in the woods. It was a good meeting but I was tired, and feeling a little unprepared for worship as I left the Centre in the pouring rain.

Fortunately, moments of wonder can happen in the most unexpected places.

I drove down Highway 10, passing green forests with an occasional highlight of red-orange brilliance. Shelagh Rogers was interviewing Lenard Cohen on CBC One. Then KD Lang began singing Cohen’s Hallelujah. And I had one of those moments when you simply are in the moment – the pouring rain, the thunk thunk of the windshield wipers, the flashes of autumn colour, Shelagh’s warm tones, Leonard’s raspiness and the power of KD’s voice offering a bittersweet song all combined into a moment of perfect beingness – a feeling that to simply be alive here and now in this place filled with all sorts of beauty was enough. It’s hard to describe these moments of just being, but they allow me to not be me and just be immersed in the present, in presence.

I stopped worrying about the service and had a peaceful drive through the storm.

Here is K.D. Lang’s gorgeous rendition of Hallelujah from the 2005 Junos.

Winter’s Harsh Beauty

For the UU Spiritual Practices blog I curate for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Durham, where I am the Consulting Minister, I spend some time each week reading and watching and listening to meditations. A few weeks ago, I found this magnificent video of an unusually cold winter in Holland filmed by Paul Klaver at a nature reserve. Death and life are present in the snowy landscape. In the midst of this brutal cold snap, this ode to winter’s strength makes me appreciate my warm house, but also reminds me that the bare bones of winter are strangely beautiful.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/81372566″>Winter</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/pklaver”>Paul Klaver</a> on.</p>

 

Simply Wait

by Lee Ransaw

by Lee Ransaw

I used this quote from the brilliant writer Franz Kafka as the closing words at last Sunday’s service at the UU Congregation of Durham.  We were exploring the idea of finding space for true relaxation in our lives.  This summed it up perfectly.

Blessing    from Franz Kafka

You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.

Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait, be quite still and solitary.

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice,
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

In the coming weeks, let the world offer itself to you.
Simply wait.

Standing in the Light

This is the best time of year for sitting on the couch in my living room.  The two large maples at the front of the house are not yet in leaf and the sun is low enough that the light streams into the room for hours in the afternoon.   It’s a peaceful spot (except when the dog is barking madly at the people passing by on the sidewalk!) and a good place to practice self-compassion.

Image by Itaya

Image by Itaya

Compassion is, in part, a sympathy of feeling, of experiencing what another is experiencing. While much of the literature on compassion calls for us to act, to serve others selflessly,and a life of service does develop empathy,for those of us who judge ourselves far more than anyone else,perhaps compassion needs to begin at home. By accepting the light and dark within us,we can find our way to compassion for others.   Continue reading

Gratitude

I’m feeling gratefsnowdrops twoul today.  The chalice is overflowing!  I’m grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Durham in Whitby, Ontario has hired me to be their consulting minister beginning in April.  Grateful that the Grand River Unitarian Congregation will ordain me in May.   Grateful that the snowdrops beside the house are just coming into bud.   I’m grateful to be part of this world, a world that include poets like Gary Snyder.

Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us—
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.

after a Mohawk prayer

Gary Snyder, Turtle Island