Change with Faith

This is probably a good week for vigilance. Monday of this week was Summer Solstice and Saturday of this week is a Full Moon in Cancer with a Lunar Eclipse. Not only is an eclipse by itself a strong energy, but this one is especially strong because the Moon is attached to Pluto, the energy of death and transformation, square Uranus, the energy of sudden changes, and Jupiter, the energy of expansion. Saturn, the energy of structure, is also closing in on a square to Pluto and an opposition to Uranus. Interesting. Earth is in the crosshairs, in other words. What’s also personally interesting is that my birthday is Friday and my birth time only six hours or so from all the above hoo-ha. I, too, earthbound human and birthday girl, am in the crosshairs.

I’ve been a sky-watcher for as long as I can remember. When you grow up on a farm, that’s what you do: watch sky. Dad, a church-going Elder, always planted as closely connected to moon cycles as he could, given weather and rain and all those other variables. I remember him standing at the west edge of the yard, looking into a red, stormy sunset and repeating, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; red sky at morning, sailors’ warning.”

I could not for the life of me make sense of that, however, as it seemed backwards. Wouldn’t a red sky at night, with the attendant possibility of storms mean a warning? It was to us. I thought about that a lot. Did it mean that the storm would bring up a wind and push sailors toward land? Maybe the sailors were in the Southern Hemisphere, I though. Would that make a difference? And if I told him my confusion and asked what the saying meant, he’d say, “That’s what my dad always said.” As if that explained it all. In other words, a mystery.

The bottom line was, we watched sky. Always.

And that’s made me a woman who watches sky. And my education taught me to look farther – out past the sky I could see to planets and how their movements impacted Earth. One of my favorite sites,, allows me look at patterns in the sun. When the sun explodes Coronal Mass Ejections on the earth facing side, electronics and electricity go nuts. As does my electrical nerve network. The same sort of things happen to a lesser degree when there’s a solar wind. And right now the Sun sports a huge coronal hole, orbiting around to face earth with a strong solar wind stream due to hit earth on, you guessed it, Friday. Happy Birthday, Janet.

The point is, I’m not the only one being impacted by the electro-magnetic forces swirling around our planet right now. We’ve had earth changes and earthquakes, storms and floods, volcanos here and there, underground mine disasters and water disasters, and a general mayhem along with amazing changes and unexpected happenings. We’re all going through changes, from the ground up, as it were. We are tossed and pulled and pushed by the past into a future we can’t see.

That’s where the faith comes in, or “trust” as I call it given that “faith” can be a pretty charged word. I trust the changes that are happening, that the earth will somehow recover its balance at some point (which doesn’t mean saying the disasters are okay), and I trust that however I am being pushed to change and develop, I will. As long as I pay attention, slow down, watch, reflect, and don’t push things to happen before their time.

I connected to another blog post today from another writer, Madison Woods. You can find her post, “Wu Wei” in the Visiting Writers link. “The Taoist concept of “Wu Wei” involves knowing when to act and when not to act,” she writes. That seems to be the task we are all asked to develop in these times. Knowing, by watching, listening to our spirit voices, our bodies, reflecting on our inner senses, when it’s time to act and when it’s time to wait.

I’m going to watch a lot this week. Will I act? I don’t know. I’m writing this. But will I act in any overt way? Couldn’t tell you. Perhaps, in the end, that’s the faith mystery of our lives: a balance between knowing and not knowing.

Work as a Spiritual Quest

This morning I’ve been thinking about work as a spiritual quest. Most of my writing has the quest for a spiritual life as a topic, but my work to market the work and the work to edit the work just feels like – well – work! How would infusing the spiritual into work, work – what would it look like? To pause before each step to give it the presence it needs?

Ah, being present. Being present all the time takes a lot of work. How to remember to be present? One way is breathing: consciousness of breath is an always task. But the words I’m using – work, task – don’t really lend themselves to turning the corner into acceptance.

What else would put spirit into work? A smile. And suddenly, I remember Bhante Kamalesiri, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk with whom I practiced meditation when I lived in Washington D.C.

He was a tiny man, dressed in voluminous, soft, saffron-colored robes, and he always smiled. He smiled as he taught before leading us into silent meditation. And if I sneaked a peek at him while he sat, he’d be smiling. How could he sit so calmly and patiently?

After about thirty minutes into sitting, I’d have lost patience: my legs would be aching, my back, my hips, and crossed knees. Learning to accept the suffering in life is an arduous practice and my entire consciousness would be fixed on my suffering body.

In the middle of my suffering, and probably for most of us sitting there, I’d hear his soft voice floating across the room, “Gently lift the corners of your mouth.” Just that. And that simple, kind reminder, when he knew we were all aching, would change the energy of the ache.

The corners of my mouth would lift, I’d smile, and everything lightened. His simple reminder always amused me, and with the smile, I’d feel my body take a deep breath.

Try it. Right now as you’re reading. Lift the corners of your mouth and smile. Close your eyes and feel how everything in your face lightens with that smile, how your shoulders relax and your body takes a filling breath. Take a moment, just a moment, to smile and breathe.

Too often we think of work as what we do to earn the money to do the other things we want to do. What if we could turn that idea of work into thinking of our work as the gift we offer: the gift of our talents, the gift of our ideas, the gift of doing a job well? How would our daily lives change if we were to say, “I’m going to gift,” instead of “I’m going to work”? For one thing, I suppose people would look at us a little strange, but who knows – it might catch on, we might have everyone around us thinking of their work as gift!

Today I will practice looking at my work as my gift. Whatever I do. After all, I still have legs and hands and heart and head. And the courage to lift the corners of my mouth and smile. I offer that smile to you.

Being and Doing

See the lilies of the field

This is the line that came to me as I realized my life was pretty simple today, the to-do list more or less caught up (so, okay, I haven’t refinished the dining room chairs), and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Yes, there are weeds to pull in the garden after all this rain, but that’s an always rather than a to-do. And yes, I could spend the day clearing out the large box of photographs in the other office, but that’s such a big task I haven’t even put it on any list.

Late May into early June was pretty chaotic and busy with to-dos sticking out all over the place, rather, do-this-right-now! sorts of things and visitors and family gatherings and a film job and a trip to the farm to open it up and plants that needed ground instead of seedling pots. Last week was catch up on naps and editing for publications and more naps and nursing a troublesome knee injured in all the aforementioned too many things to do. I know all of you have had your own chaotic weeks and times and surgeries and trips and family.

But this week is simple. And I realized as I sat here this morning, I didn’t quite know what to do with no pressures forcing me into action. I’d done a lot of doing but not much being. Today is a day for being.

It’s an interesting verb, to be. Most of the time, another word tags along: I am busy, I am tired, I am angry, frustrated, happy, sad. We don’t take much time for the simple I am. And I’m probably not alone when I don’t quite know what to do with it.

Now there’s an interesting idea – being alone with being. Are we alone when we simply be? Or is the simple act of being where we are most filled?

I’m reminded of another line, one I wrote in an essay edited again yesterday: “Perhaps it’s only in waiting that something so tremulous can come into being.” 

Waiting is not one of my strongest characteristics.

Perhaps your day is also a day of waiting, of pausing in the breath of moments. I’ve heard no sirens this morning. Perhaps, even with a cloudy sky, we are all held in a moment of peace. I suspect the task is in recognizing peace and allowing it to be part of our day.

We could all use some practice in remembering how to be grateful for the times of calm. I want to remember today as I go about the hours. I want to remember that being is more important that doing, at least for right now. And right now is all we have.

Today is a day to pull out the gratitude list and add to it rather than add to the to-do list. Today is a day to practice being.






A head-line in the two-week old “Week in Review” from the New York Times stacked beside my reading corner because I hadn’t had time to finish the paper read, “Our Fix-It Faith” and went on to detail how American’s faith in technology to always fix whatever problems civilization faced was being seriously tested in the Gulf oil spill. That faith in technology to fix is the same faith we seem to carry in fixing everything: work related problems, our bodies, a computer, a car,  and especially relationships. We fix. The problem is that the dedication to fixing seems in direct opposition to accepting our being in the world.

No, I’m not suggesting that the oil spill and the destruction it has caused has to be accepted. That’s not my point. I’m thinking instead of the idea that our faith resides in fixing.

In many ways, the fixation on fixing denies the actuality of being. Things break. And thinking, or assuming something can be fixed leads to carelessness. We are careless with our human relationships and careless in the way we treat the natural world. Our automobiles encase us in technology, so we’re not aware of the other humans on the highway; our computers encase us in connectivity and ideas so we are not aware of our bodies; our houses with air-conditioning and home entertainment centers and safety devices and alarms have disconnected us from our neighborhoods. Technology has created a bubble of protection that denies breaking, except for the realization that the technology needs repair from time to time. But we deal with that. It’s an annoyance but we deal. We get it fixed.

The ocean depths, on the other hand, are dark and unknown. We know more about the far outer reaches of space, millions and millions of miles away, than we do about the sea floor seven miles beneath water. Seven miles! The deepest part of the Pacific is only seven miles below the surface.

There lies the abyss and we have no idea what it is or how to think about it.  On the earth or in ourselves. When you leap into the abyss, you don’t get second chances.

Maybe that’s why “God” came to live in the sky in human consciousness. There was lots of space and, okay, lightning strikes and floods and hurricanes from time to time, but no dark abyss. The “she” of earth, the dark, mysterious, gestating body, felt entirely too intimidating. Humans could fix the surface but going deeper takes a lot of effort.

Maybe that is why we fix. Fixing is a lot simpler than the depth of consciousness necessary to see the natural world as sacred. Humans are part of the natural world. And the natural world dies. Slowly, in some cases, but the natural world dies. Technology transforms into new ideas but it doesn’t die. Perhaps our faith in technology, and our lack of faith in other humans, comes from the same dynamic.

Mending the World

Every morning I sit with my journal and write my life: the to-do list for the day, the accomplishments of the day before, dreams, memories, thoughts, fears, physical struggles. It’s a practice I’ve had for many years – almost forty! I just realized – and fed by many teachers I’ve known through their writing: Doris Lessing, Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron.

This morning as I was writing my ever-expanding-do-this-right-now! list, I felt a growing anxiety in my chest. I stopped. I breathed. Breathe, Janet, breathe. It will all come together. I picked up a current favorite teacher, Rabbi David A. Cooper.

“Each time we do something that raises consciousness, we lift sparks of holiness to new levels. This is called tikkun ha-nefesh, mending the soul, and tikkum ha-olam, mending the world, bringing it closer to its source.”

Ah. The task once more of mending the world is by redirecting my own consciousness into peace. Waaaaa waaaaa waaaaa. That’s what it always comes back to. I laughed, and laughter and consciousness are like an electrical charge, infusing the holy into everything.

“Once we enter a holistic frame of reference in which all parts are complete and are replicas of the whole, then everything in the universe, by definition, is integrally connected.”

I am once more thrown back into the “circle of my arms” as I wrote in an earlier post. I can only change this world – mend this life – offer that peace to everything I can do. And of course, that means being conscious of my actions and where I step.

But by that simple action of changing my frame of reference by breathing and releasing the anxiety I was feeling, I was able to return to being. Simply being silent and observing the world around me. This morning, the sky is a blue backdrop to the deep green of trees outside my window and the morning light slants in golden from the east. A breeze ruffles the top of the weeping willow. Yes, sure, the day may bring heat and humidity, but at the moment, out my window, there’s a silent glory. No sirens this morning, at least not yet; the birds in the thicket along the fence are even quiet.

For a moment, for this little window of consciousness, all is right with my world. That’s the consciousness I want to carry with me through the tumble of today’s tasks, and the reminder I want to give myself: stop and look and consider and breathe.  

I imagine there must be people in the world right now who aren’t pushed to the limits of their understanding and patience. I don’t know any of them, but there must be. I want to pretend I’m one of them. I want to remember that the world isn’t ending, at least not quite yet, and the tasks will either get completed today or another day. I want to remember to laugh and do my part to heal the world. Even if the world is as small as the circle of my two arms.