Out of Hiding
An Exhibition of Creative Writing and Art from Workshops Led by Merry Song
Introduction from the Curators
Throughout the spring of this monumental year, a couple of dozen searching souls gathered in two writing workshops led by Center teacher Merry Song. We did so not to learn technical writing skills, but to practice searching for truth within our hearts in safe, supportive gatherings. For some, Merry Song’s workshops over the past year have led to seismic shifts and, for others, more subtle transformations, but none came away unchanged, and for that we are grateful.
Due to the restrictions on gathering publicly, the intended bricks and mortar exhibition of our writing and accompanying artwork needed another outlet so we retooled and here present our work/play virtually, so you can be inspired from the comfort of your home.
We call the exhibition Out of Hiding. Whether it was a secret we had never told anyone else before or an aspect of our very selves we had been hiding from ourselves, we emerged in many ways.
Several writers chose artworks, ours or another’s, to complement our writing. The writing itself is almost exactly as it was first written in our notebooks. Only very light editing was done to correct obvious typos. It’s raw and real.
We, the coordinators of this exhibit, would like to thank Merry Song for her generosity of time and talent, gentle leadership and inspiration. We also give thanks and a debt of gratitude to Tom McFarlane, CSS Publications Director, for his generosity of time and talent in taking our materials and creating a virtual gallery where we can all peruse and muse.
Donna Lee Atkinson
A Word From Workshop Leader Merry Song
Coming out of hiding has been a definite calling in my life. Until recently, I’ve found many ways, both consciously and unconsciously, to escape the prospect of offering my true self to the world. But once I surrendered and answered my lifelong calling, I realized that I had the opportunity to shine a little light for others.
The spiritual writing workshops at the Center for Sacred Sciences grew out of this coming out, and the energy flowing freely in the workshops appears to encourage others to examine what makes them hide and who exactly is hiding. Encouragements to face fears have led some participants to step up and take leadership roles.
Because I was so amazed by the magic of the creative writing process we used as well as the resulting writing, I had a vision of how it might be shared with the greater Center community. I voiced this vision in a workshop one day and three people came forward to carry the vision to fruition.
They call it “Out of Hiding”—an exhibit of unedited writing and artwork that may encourage the viewer to consider the topic of emerging. The curators have used their own talents and intuitions to create this remarkable show.Merry Song
February 4, 2020
See Shell Still Life
See Shell Zentangle
She was curious about the seeming transitional and ephemeral flow of being in and out of awareness, conscious awareness. Her mind played tricks on her. Sometimes she thought she was really “being” and in the “now.” Then suddenly she would be aware of thinking things such as…ok, here I am, paying attention to Peace In Every Step…just like Thich Nhat Hanh. Then, whoa…those were all thoughts. And at other times, not meditating consciously, not doing anything, really, but checking out the dogs or the center of a flower…Concentrating on the trail of some ants…actually feeling like she was entering the hole in the ground with them… And the Horned Owls hooting to each other at night when she answers and there’s a 3-way hoot going on. That’s what she was really curious about…How does that work? Why can’t she make it happen when she wants to?
Cultivating Awareness Around the Story of “I”
October 21, 2019
What hurt most was knowing I was hurting him while coming undone and accusing him. What hurt most was my inability to stop being verbally abusive while aware of being out of control. What hurt most was watching myself coming unraveled and not being able to stop. The pain was for myself while being aware of the discomfort of all around me. Looking for a way out…How to Stop? Retreat? How to reassure all around me that all will be fine as soon as I can get a grip. No one will be hurt in this war of words coming out of my mouth if you can just put up an invincible wall. Sticks and stones can break your bones but please, please don’t let my words hurt you. Hey…Wait a minute…Just stop your words…back down…Slowly - Carefully…Release steam – Breathe…Soften…Unwind…Deflate…there, there…Sigh and Soothe…Softer, Sweeter.
You notice the tree (bird, squirrel, sunshine) outside your window…
You notice the pear tree outside your window and realize what a gift it is and has been over the 20 years you’ve lived in this house. When you 1st moved in, you were very excited about one pear and 3 apple trees in the backyard. Little did you realize how much work they were to maintain ... but, oh the rewards after pruning in January, the gift giving had just begun.
Just to focus on the pear tree, the blossoms are so lovely in spring. You love looking out the window of your bedroom and seeing the fullness of beautiful pinkish/white blossoms. Of course it smells heavenly as well when you go outside and stand directly under it, looking up through the branches rich with blossoms, knowing what is to come as the weeks go by.
Pears, Pears, and more Pears! First tiny little green nubbins, slowly transforming into pear shape little green nubbins and then over the summer months becoming full blown pears. You vividly remember the spring you broke your leg when a dog ran into you, knocked you over and crushed the tibia plateau. No weight bearing for 3 months! Little walking with brace and crutches. Oh how you missed walking your dog in the woods, or anywhere for that matter.
But the pear tree was the saving grace. Every morning (at least on the nice spring mornings) you were able to hobble outside and sit on the strategically placed chair under the beloved pear tree. Sitting, meditating, feeling the warmth of the sunshine through the branches and day by day witnessing the tiny pears grow, barely perceptible. But there they were becoming more pear like every day. This became a metaphor for your bone growing each day, barely perceptible, slowly growing and repairing itself, healing while you sat under the pear tree, patiently, very patiently. Thankful each day to be able to grow new bone.
Oh so many other pear gifts, dried pears, pear ginger jam, canned and frozen pears and sauces. Then the year your daughter got married was a very good pear year. 90 jars for pear ginger jam labeled with hearts, decorated with lace as wedding gifts. The tree that keeps on giving!
Amazing grace and gifts of your beautiful pear tree. In the fall the leaves become mulch for other parts of the garden, and the cycle begins again. Oh BTW, birds and squirrels love the pear tree as well!
I like to tell the story about the time…
I like to tell the story about the time I was wanting a companion in my life. Kids grown, out of house, living alone, wanting someone to do things with. So I decided to pray and ask for someone, to be open to possibility, to be open to receive. I prayed with one of the ministers at Unity, a dear older retired minister, we assisted with the Wed. night prayer services together. We prayed together and she said a very nice prayer….I felt open to receive!
The very next day, my oldest daughter called and asked if I could take her dog. She was working as a flight attendant, gone for several days in a row, and going to school part time to earn her MSW, and she had just lost her roommate who used to help take care of her dog. She absolutely could not take care of her dog, so could I please take him for at least a few months? So I said yes, that’s what Moms do. Right?
Suddenly I had a companion…he was handsome, liked to take walks, go into the woods and run around, was very playful and affectionate, and was with me nearly all the time. His name was Bodhisatva, Bodhi for short. He liked to cuddle, was very handsome and had a hairy chest and He took up half the bed, only thing was, he had 4 legs instead of 2!!!!
There is a saying at Unity, “Prayer works Wonders” When I told M.E., the minister that prayed with me, she laughed heartedly and said, “stay open.”
Within a short time, I was walking Bodhi, my granddog, at the dog park and met someone with a dog, a poodle, and we often found ourselves there about the same time. We started walking our dogs and sharing stories.
But that’s another whole story…
I am a…
January 7, 2020
Bark paper, acrylic, colored pencil, twine
Untitled (artist unknown)
Aboriginal painting, acrylic on canvas
I am a…
…Dot, a speck of love, so small, yet no smaller or larger than The myriad of love-dots that inhabit this world as body/mind. A dot does not exit in isolation, together they create a pattern Of love so great, so unbounded, they can only be called God. In this unity of dot-ness they can bypass the tangle of so-called “communication” and send dot-love, like a dottd line, to those Suffering. Dots can arrange their dot-selves, like a spiral, around Those who feel separated, returning to unity. Dot-love is God love. Dot-love is all.
He always wanted to dance
January 9, 2020
He always wanted to dance. But his shyness made a prisoner of him. He would attend parties and clubs, watching dancers in fascination. It seemed to him that dancing represented freedom, a freedom he never experienced. Alone in his room he put on some music with a good beat, and danced in front of the mirror, he was able to feel the music in his body and found himself doing some of the moves he’d seen others do. It felt so good to connect in this way with his body. One day, as he was riding the bus home from work, he found a book left behind by another passenger. It was titled “The Selfless Path.” He started to read it, intrigued, and took it home to delve into. The book contained a chapter on Transparency – a new idea to him, something to investigate. As he read about the spiritual aspect of Selflessness, he came to understand that we are not our body/mind. That we were all One. It made sense to him and began to draw him out of the isolation he’d been feeling for so long. The next day a friendly girl from his neighborhood invited him to a musical event. He shyly accepted when the girl asked him to dance. The music stirred him, the dance floor lured him with strobing lights and swaying bodies. He took her hand and headed to the crowded dance floor. He suddenly felt invisible, like part of the music. He was ecstatic as he surrendered to the rhythms. The girl complimented him on his dancing skills. He smiled to himself and said, “Thanks.”
She threw away the instructions
January 24, 2020
She threw away the instructions she got from her parents: “Be good,” “be nice,” “be cute,” “you are responsible for how you feel.”
She threw it away and became more wise, more free, more curious, and less afraid.
What is in her mind? “Be nothing” “do nothing” “Get nothing” “become nothing”…..
So, what about this bowing? She does know how to bow to the mystery. Now she is eager to dive more deeply into the Heart of Christ.
The Sacred Heart. She craves the quiet know of Peace. “Make me an instrument of Thy Peace.” Before she can be an instrument she must dwell in that Peace.
She is a lamb. A lamb doesn’t constantly think! A lamb is content to be guided by her Master. Content to drink at the still waters, content to lie in green pastures with no thought of the future, no memory of the PAST.
“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Better Late Than Never to Make Your Dreams Come True
Better Late Than Never to Make Your Dreams Come True (detail)
She is attached to certain colors. Which colors? Go through the rainbow. ROY G. BIV. The bright, saturated ones. Why? Her childhood was beige. She resents it from quite early on when she glimpses the possibilities beyond those gray stone walls. Some girls wear red, red like the fire alarm box on her street corner: In case of emergency, break glass. She can’t imagine having to make this determination. What counts as an emergency? Does beige qualify? Because when she really thinks about it, beige is the emergency. No, she’s not burning up, but her heart might freeze to death. Why does no one see this and come to help? Should she break the glass? But, you see, she has been so well taught: Do not ask for anything for yourself, even the help you need to save your life. Do not ask for a pair of red patent leather Mary Janes or a box of Froot Loops. They are impractical and not worth spending money on since her tiny feet and her tiny bones are still growing. She has to be content – she has to survive – with brown saddle shoes. She is allowed to have a bedspread with hot pink and purple on it, but that is only because the door can be shut when guests come. She buys two Flair pens for 49 cents each with her own money, one in hot pink, the other purple. Those pens hold a lot of promise, too much for two pens to hold. She buys a pair of purple bell-bottom jeans. She is beginning to speak. But still, each afternoon she returns to the beige house, the one where she is supposed to silence the color in her heart and veins and hands. Shhhhhh.
Donna L. Atkinson
February 10, 2020
Donna Lee Atkinson
Self-Portrait Sitting in Silence
Colored pencil on paper
She just wanted to be alone…she had nothing more to say. Her intuition is guiding her to go deep within herself…to listen rather than speak. She hiked for miles on Fall Creek Trail. It was a pleasant warm summer morning. Her steps on the path followed a river’s course, parts of it on a downward slope. Some miles if most were a gentle incline into a higher elevation finally opening into a meadow of wildflowers, same species as those seen along the roads outside of town but smaller, succulent in their structure, still beautiful in their color of blues, violets and white, dapples of pink blossoms. She saw it…the cabin that appeared often in her dreams and her writings. It nestled on the meadow’s edge, a few feet into a forest of pines…very few ferns…The smell was a mix of pine forest, meadow decay and bloom, and the wet, random rocks on the river’s edge. It was all there…waiting…a sanctuary, solitary, alone…a place for inward journeys and outward vision quests.
She followed the trail along the meadow’s edge. It ended at the cabin door step. With an outward breath she turned the door’s handle, opening yet another door toward the truth of herself. Though the cabin looked small on the outside, it was endlessly spacious on the inside, one room expanding into a final home, her final place to rest. The windows had no coverings so deer could peer in. The door opened widely for squirrels, racoons, crows, jays and other creatures to freely visit then leave without restraints. The walls were honed logs, debarked, leveled to flatness, nothing hanging on them, a plain screen for her imagination to play out its visions in the light of the woodstove. There was a single bed in the corner with room for only her body, a rocking chair by a widow looking over the meadow, a view for summer thunder/lightening storms and winter snow.
She said, “Yes!…this is where I will be alone, within and without myself…” She removed her backpack, found an ax, began chopping seasoned branches for the winter’s fire, preparing for her last years, final seasons moving through annual rhythms. Taking in the nutrients from the air to feed her body and soul, she sat quietly, letting the silence speak, going deep into her inner universe, expanding into consciousness, free…finally free… a last vision quest into knowing. She waits.
February 7, 2020
The past twenty years has been a bumpy rugged path to her true nature, the small truths opening doors to the big “AHA” truth. It is leading her away from a family she does not fit or belong into another community filled with women and men who are sharing a practice of an open heart, non-judgement, loving kindness and compassion. She welcomes and returns their warm embraces, filled with love and acceptance, so glad she is present. She is finding her home…she is home. There is no or little fear guiding her, old conditioning, anxiety, belief systems are falling apart, then away. The experience is much like the painting she did of loving cancer into transformative healing. She painted the cancer cells as they appeared flowing through her blood. The painted hearts with loving transformative healing over the cancer cells visualizing the cancer cells dissolving, breaking apart, becoming pure love. Yes, that is what life has become/is. A painting of transformative energy over life experiences becoming transformed into PURE LOVE…Thank you God-I/She is grateful…Peace <3
I would like to forgive….
January 18, 2020
In Paradise, Self Doubt, Not Curiosity, is the Cat’s Worst Fate
Acrylic on canvas
I would like to forgive myself. I would like to forgive myself for being so afraid. So afraid that I turned against myself, blamed, and hated myself. I want to forgive myself for giving up on me and buying into that I was too stupid to do things on my own - that I wasn’t good enough and had to hide my true beautiful, scared Paula.
I love you so very much Paula. I love you and want you to know that you are good- just the way you ARE!! You don’t have to pretend to be something else to be loved. Please know that!!! Please be yourself. Love yourself, know that you are worthy. It’s Ok to be you, you are not selfish! I love you. You get mixed up, you get confused and don’t trust anyone, but that’s Ok, you can be yourself. You are loved.
Please forgive me Paula, for not being there for you. I wish I would have stood up for you - protected you - instead of hating you. I am so sorry. I was so scared, I really didn’t know what else to do but try to get away from the scary, sad, angry feelings you had. I was afraid I wouldn’t be taken care of - They would hate me and leave me alone - I felt like I would die.
I wanted to hate them, but in the end I was too scared to be alone and so I hated you, and tried to hide you and I tried to be “good.” I tried to be quiet and cute and not get in anyone’s way.
I played alone with my dolls, colored, and made up my own imaginative world. I tried to push you away, couldn’t let my/your feelings out - you became the evil one no-one could see. I am so sorry we had to feel so ashamed. It isn’t/wasn’t true! We were both Good and I love you and I love me.
He is DNA
He is DNA
He is fresh and new
He is energy and momentum
He grows and fills and splits and divides
He is born and accepted
He has done nothing
He interacts and grows and learns and joins
He is introduced to new this and that
He pushes and pulls and works
He has done nothing
He learns and questions
He thinks and decides
He changes and develops
He convinces and argues
He wins and looses
He has done nothing
He realizes and accepts
He rests and calms
He demonstrates and models
He detaches and prepares
He succeeds at last to unite
He has done nothing
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, a little while back in time, a boy was walking down a path. It was dirt terrain, not dry or hard, but green, with woods and grass and birds and bugs and critters. And as he walked down the path, he enjoyed all the sights and sounds as they presented themselves to him. He smelled the air - it would change constantly. He smelled the dirt, the needles, the leaves on the trees, the old patches of accumulating organic debris that piles up in such sylvan settings. Sometimes his awareness shifted to something new, a creek sounding near, an unseen bird announcing itself to the lesser creatures in the environment. The chirping and chittering of hummingbirds and squirrels. The phenomena in the environment continued unrelentingly to reveal itself everywhere the boy looked. At last, overwhelmed, he stood still. Totally engulfed by the path, the woods, the earth underfoot, the flowing breath of infinity moving in and out of his body while at the same time cradling and forming his body within it. He realized there was no where to go and that the path was an illusion from the beginning. He had never really been on a path he had never even really been a boy. All this perception was the dream of a sleeper, a sleeper who loves nothing more than to dream its dreams into being.
Go As Nothing!
January 20, 2020
Out of My Mind
Watercolor and collage on paper
She tries to act as though nothing is wrong when all the while there is a tornado going on inside her—well probably mostly in brain!—How did she get here again? It seemed like the best idea at the time. Solitude oh, how she craves to be alone with no clocks, phones, or agendas. Not to be for now. She has to sort this out, weather this storm so to speak - such common language —giving in will not work. Will letting go? Maybe but she has to make some decisions soon because the tornado is growing and if she ignores the wind, it will eventually blow her away & then there will be fewer choices at least now she still has some options. What does that mean, well if she just stays and doesn’t change anything the storm will continue and gain power, get bigger, more powerful. If she leaves too soon there will be unrepairable consequences of great proportions. How can she figure out the best move to make right now—be still—find the eye of the storm and sit there! Look at the bigger picture and how did she get there again—how did she know that she was heading the same direction—offering more than she could deliver—Then stressing and not making good decisions—feeling like she will never be good enough—setting herself up for failure—more about emotions than actions—how does she attract this same person over and over again—-what does she need to heal so she can stop inviting this experience that seems to be repeating past experiences, different people, different faces, different bodies. Explore more!
(LOVE) I will make my Self a valentine....
February 3, 2020
Calligraphy on paper
I will make my Self a valentine! What a sweet thing to do. To recognize that vast energy of my Self, a huge, loving, compassionate embrace of all of life. Ah, that pure tenderness and toughness! I wonder, is it even possible to emerge with that vast embrace of the Self?
All those persistent little needling "stories of I" burst in silently and stealthy like a cat. Would I even be able to recognize all that self-acceptance, after so many years of practicing a separate lonely self?
Oh yes! That valentine to the Self would be full of warm acceptance of the now - moment by moment, taking it all in with no judgments! The valentine will encompass all of this being and render this body and all beings as being what they truly are - an illusion! There would be the valentine of Self, full of loving kindness for all of our suffering.
Funny how to describe the fully positive that the negative is included. But maybe it is the neti-neti, not this and not that.
Maybe there is no big hurrah! Maybe it is the neutral being full of sweet joys and the sweet sorrows of life.
Maybe it is that thin line down the road, of noticing all and yet not being swept away by either, is the biggest valentine of and to the SELF. Even getting used to "good" things may take a while to get used to.
Maybe even letting go of the "big prize" in the sky – is just that the process of LETTING GO and LETTING BE.
February 7, 2020
Pen on paper
She accepts herself…
She accepts herself and Life just as it is. She notices what she used to despise in herself, what she used to judge so harshly.
Now, it (just) is what it is.
She still gets tripped up by the old ways of seeing and believing. But mostly, she is able to see through these patterns and settle back into a compassionate acceptance of herself. Mostly, it is about her body, her perceived lack of accomplishment, sometimes about her disorganization, but then
Kind voice arises
She is calmed and breathes in peace and relief.
As to her history, certainly emotional pain arise- as do heavy, difficult energies (which) she would prefer to push away. Certainly that first instinct arises, but then she remembers, they (the energies) just need to be felt, seen and heard in all their innocence, and most of all, loved.
So the process of opening begins. (and) As the banished energies learn to trust her care and welcome, they show themselves and dissolve int the open spaciousness of tenderness and love. And then, what is there? Her attention notices the love, (and) the delicious warmth all floating in spaciousness.
As she sits with and in this experience, more and more (of it) fills her until she (feels) all her nooks and crannies of body and mind infused with this essence, until there is nothing but the naked experience of this deliciousness of space that just is, empty but not empty.
Afterward, she returns to her awareness of her body and her surroundings, re-entering the conditioned perception of her world-in it, but not of it.
She re-enters the stream of her human doing, yet (remains) deeply connected to the deeper ground(less) Ground of Being.
I release you, my secrets
What the Frack?!
Pieced and quilted fabric
I release you, my secrets, you can no longer hide in the shadows. I release you--the furry underground mole. Your eyes will sting when you peer out from your subterranean world. I release you from the darkness that has been your security blanket. I am not afraid to have you seen by the sun. I am not afraid to open my eyes and see. I’m not afraid to be seen. Seen with squinty eyes. I release you from your invisible existence. The comfort of dark, moldy ground that is safe and small. You’ve been held in the arms of Mother Earth, like a slumbering black bear. When you take a look in the mirror, you see one of 2 things. A wrinkled forehead worried-looking. Pale skin with weird spots and scars. A notch—no 2 notches now--missing from your nose. Your suffering shows. You could show more joy, be here where the Joy is. Other times you happen to see yourself without critical mind. You get a glance of you--happy to be you. You with relaxation, acceptance or happiness on your face. That’s your face. When you look at your body, you are fine with it. Remarkably lively and working well. You wear clothes that feel comfortable, look comfortable. Colors that cheer or blend harmoniously or go with your face color. A face that’s not bad, when blended with the rest of the painting. Just one of the colors that support the impression of you-ness. The way you are just a dab of paint in the macrocosm of all beings, multiples of beings, seen and unseen. Invisible is just as real as visible. Visible, seen, unseen, seeing or blind as a mole. Faceless or with many faces. Underground or in the spotlight. All changes, disperses. Darkness shrouds us. Light finds us. Just depends on where we feel we are.
Holy Bear Creek
When I was younger, I loved Bear Creek.
I hung out with fairies or at least their empty playgrounds.
Oh, this is where the fairies dance.
The queen sits up here.
Let’s stop here and feel the magic.
I was usually with my friend, Jan. She spoke even less than I did and usually followed my imagination, as it led us to the cave with the two empty niches, carved into the rock wall. Where holy statues must have once stood.
Probably one of Mary and the other of Jesus, with his bleeding heart.
Mary, my favorite--blue dress and veil, gentle loving expression, standing in the embrace of a crescent moon. A snake at her feet?
Or did I add that to my memory of the one in our All Saints Church?
Roses at her feet or in her arms.
But hands usually in prayer position. Maybe she dropped the roses. Maybe they were thorny, like my experience.
But, this pair of niches now were empty impressions above our heads. Cement on their floors, where the saintly ones had perched, overlooking those who came adventuring.
I wanted to climb up and stand in the space where I imagined Mary had been. It was too high, no toe-holds. I was an excellent tree climber and I was strongly drawn to the holy place. But, like the church altar, I would have committed a serious sin—mortal—to go where only the priests and altar boys went. Close to the sacred.
I believed the priests were holy, but I knew some of those altar boys were regular, mischievous boys. No girls allowed near the altar, though. Never girls, not even nuns, probably. But, we had no nuns.
Interesting that this Bear Creek haven was a former Catholic high school. We found a grown-over football field, splintery bleachers and best of all, a little house at the top of the six rows of bleachers. Sports announcer’s place, I guess. But, for Jan and me, it was the closest thing to a tree house. The boys in our neighborhood had built a tree house! No girls allowed!!!
I couldn’t stand it! I wanted to have a tree house!
I already spent hours lying in the embrace of the lowest branch of our backyard tree. Reading, watching the fast moving Colorado sky. A higher branch would have been too thin to hold me. The tree was young, like the neighborhood houses built right before we moved in, when I was six. But the Beichleys, right across the chain link fence from our kitchen window. A view of the glorious tree house built in a giant tree. Mr. Beichley found the tree pulled out of the ground and cast aside, at a construction site nearby. He tied it to his truck and dragged it to their house. Planted it.
And I watched it grow.
Underside of leaves were silver.
I watched them fall, submerge under snow,
and I watched the tree house and ladder being built.
A couple of times—oh amazing day! The neighborhood boys let me come in.
It was lovely. Breath-taking.
They were divided if girls should be allowed and for how many minutes.
I tried to be acceptable.
Tried not to antagonize them.
Tried not to be girly, since that must be something they wanted to keep away.
Then they kicked me out again.
In my earliest experiences, the fairies were very happy.
And they were all girls.
Love Comes to You
Leone From the Year of Sorrow
Cinnamon clay and underglazes
You take a deep breath when you stop near the rapids in the river. The flowing water has its song that calms you and gives you life. You breathe in the damp clear air, the songs of bubbles over rocks crashing and kicking, freeing your spirit. Flow river flow, the air so alive and fresh
The young Ospreys call to their Mom in their nest high above the rapids; the swallows so graceful, diving and dipping above the water, their iridescent feathers so beautiful, so stunning, catching a beam of light
You take deep, deep breaths, relaxing into the wonder of the sacred river. The old trees and shade welcome you. The river welcomes you. (You are safe once again.) This is where love comes to you.
Jojo: Rescue Dog
January 27, 2020
Jojo Rescue Dog
I know the way you can get close to Jojo
You can give him a treat, but really, to sit with him ‘till his anxiousness
Subsides is the best way. So he knows he is safe with you - and it takes a
While, because he has been without dedicated human care and contact for so
Long, he is quite scared.
Oh, I know the way you can get closer to Jojo
Take him for a long walk in the woods where he can run at will. Throw him a ball
Far and high, and he will bound eagerly to retrieve it for you to throw it again.
I know the way you can get yet closer
Take him onto your lap stroke him, brush him, feed him tasty bits, praise him.
That’s why the Beloved says:
Bring them close with tenderness, patience and love
Bring your cup near me that I may fill it with tenderness, patience and love
And, watch your begin to sing.
February 1, 2020
You marvel at the mist rising from the wooded hills outside your window, once again in awe of the beauty the universe offers you. Your energy drops down and slows and you notice the sunrising and illuminating not only the mist, but the glorious still fir trees, the expansive multicolored meadows, the birds awakening to morning. Your body quiets and, with deep gratitude, you begin to cry, appreciative of your ability to be touched by this miracle of life. All is well.
Your safety, the utter congruency of that that is inside and that that is outside your window, all arising and passing, all is made whole by your light giving awareness.
Your biggest accomplishment in life
Pieced and quilted fabric
Strange Attractor #23
Pieced and quilted fabric
Your biggest accomplishment in life was when you finished grad school and then decided to give it all up and go traveling in your VW van, visiting spiritual communities. You had thought a lot about not finishing the Ph.D. You knew you didn’t want the academic life of publish or perish. You enjoyed teaching and loved doing research, but the competitive, demanding, tenure-seeking life was not for you. Others, however, convinced you to finish the degree.
So, after defending your dissertation, you headed west, seeking something. Everything you owned was in your van, including your cat, Joe, who you really didn’t “own” but who had shared a life with you for the last ten years. Your first stop was an ashram where a large meditation retreat was about to begin. Individual spaces where taped out on the carpet with enough room to sit on your cushion and not much more. Every break you returned to your van to see how Joe was doing. He was free to come and go, and knew the van as home. Usually he was sleeping in the back on a pile of blankets.
This was the first time you’d been on a meditation retreat and were pleased that you did it, but didn’t feel any clearer about what to do or where to go next. You continued west, camping on Forest Service land—relaxing after five years of grad school. You didn’t have a real goal—no place specific, but you’d imagined being part of a community that ran retreats. So you talked to people you met and continued your search. A visit to a community in New Mexico made a great impression. You liked the mountainous location, the daily practices and felt at home among the group of 30 or so residents. Perhaps you would stay awhile.
February 5, 2020
Chinese brush painting on rice paper
Before long, she couldn’t stop yearning for…abiding relax. That letting go letting God that she learned from Billy long ago. She knew this peace. But it always seemed fleeing.
She stopped. Looked at the space she loved so much. Death would come and eat it all up. Death. Had an endless appetite and she knew it was also the last and final thief.
Knock knock. Who’s there. Death. Death who. I want you!
As she aged and reflected on all her practices and attempts to weaken the constricted structures, the little and big knotty joints that fortified it, she longed and longed and longed to abide in death, as a living being.
She did not want this knocking on her door to come unexpected nor unknown at that fateful moment. As she imagined her own demise, laying of the bed of death, she knew there were yet two people that roughed the edge of her otherwise clear and clean being.
She knew this had to be cleaned and completed. Yet. She knew not what would be the final blow to that oh so strong joint in the apparatus. For she had tried everything.
The natural cognizance, way beyond mind, indeed had a mind of its own. And its own clock as well.
Exhausted, she perched herself on that huge knuckle of a joint, and like an angel fancifully and lightly sitting there, lacey whispy wings out spread, she blinked slowly and with sweet loving eyes, smiled, through and through. Legs crossed. So she perched.
Longing was then transformed into that most simple of all prayers. Thank You. The edge in her heart was slowly melting and softness was all that remained.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
February 19, 2020
Chocolate chip cookies, hot cinnamon rolls - the sweet joys of childhood. The summers when your mom and the other moms at Cheerio took off for Belfair or Bremerton on Fridays - their big shopping trip of the week, before the husband came from Seattle for the weekend - and they brought hot chocolate chip cookies and gooey cinnamon rolls for you kids. Those treats weren’t available anywhere in Zambia when you lived there.
Now, 40 years later in today’s news, Africa is being hit with locust swarms the size of cities! A swarm that size would totally swallow up the little village where you and Wesley lived. Back then, the biggest devastation the village suffered was flooding of the creek between the road and the village, and that happened only once in the four years you lived there. You came home from your office in Lusaka, where you worked on fund-raising during the week, to find a huge, roiling, muddy river where the little creek had been. There was no way the car could get through that. Villagers were waiting for you on the other side, and the driver held on to you - you never would have made it across on your own - as you struggled to stay upright in the fast-moving water.
But locusts! Imagine the constant, loud, buzzing/humming noise in the air all around you, your visibility reduced to almost nothing as you walk; the burning sensation as locusts hit your body on every side and in between, without mercy. You wonder how far you could get walking without giving up? And it wouldn’t get any better if you turned back. Locusts are everywhere! They’re destroying the crops, just planted a month ago. How can life go on in this situation? How are your African friends in Kapini village managing? Are they dying right and left? Will the famine from locusts wipe out whole populations before they are done? Blessings to you, dear friends. Blessings.
February 20, 2020
Her thoughts were like popcorn popping, one thought right after the other and none of them about anything that really mattered to her. And the worst of it was, even though they seemed random and unconnected, they were all on a thought train going nowhere, dragging her along for the ride when she meant to be meditating. So what to do? Besides just coming back to her breath over and over again. There must be something more helpful to her spiritual practice than that, because 80% of the time, she was sure, she spent lost on these trains.
She thought about Adyashanti’s contemplation - where you take a word or a phrase that’s like a koan and ponder it in your heart, let it do its work on you, like: “What is is what’s happening before you have a thought about it.” Nothing you need to figure out, just something to sit with, allow into your awareness. Might that be more beneficial than just getting lost in thought? But that isn’t meditation. Well, so what? What she was doing wasn’t much of a meditation, either!
Or maybe her latest practice of watching the pause between the in and the out breath was just too boring to hold her attention. Maybe it would be better for her to get serious again about choiceness awareness. And maybe it would be good to think about doing a combination of the two: choiceness awareness meditation for at least the next six months and, at the end, take a phrase from Adyashanti’s list to ponder throughout the day. Why not?
I am a sweet old sentimental muffin
January 27, 2020
I am a sweet old sentimental muffin. Those who really know me, know this. For instance, I am a daddy who has embarrassed his poor daughters into frozen, uncertain silence by bursting into tears at moments when they were just trying to get out the door (for what may be the final time, into their own life.)
But those who know me well, also know the other sides. They have had to live with, deal with, come up against the rageful, stodgy, certain-of-his-correctness old man. At those times, I imagine, they long to be back in the presence of the sentimental muffin.
Before you know what freedom really is
February 10, 2020
Before you know what freedom really is, you must surrender all hope of ever truly tasting it. Before real freedom touches your tongue, you must fall—many times—in despair, to your knees, asking aloud why you have been so fully forsaken.
You must give up, and give in, and give everything over.