Monday, January 28, 2008

art of hosting, after dinner

On the last evening of the Art of Hosting practice retreat, Ashley and I went up the little hill after dinner to snuggle heart to heart in the Whidbey Institute's cedar-scented sanctuary. I mentioned to her that if there weren't enough candles in there, I had two packs of 100 tealights each (Ikea! $2.99 per pack!) in the trunk of my car. There were plenty of big candles in the sanctuary, but when we went back down to the Thomas Berry hall, Ashley had an inspired idea to make a candle sculpture with the tealights.

Dumping 200 candles out
on the floor and shuffling them like mah jong tiles turned out to be an irresistable attractor, and very quickly a little circle of playmates formed, making up all kinds of games before settling on an intricate configuration of tiny flames. Chris played some lovely aires and Andy recorded a little video on his amazing small camera (Thank you, Andy!)

In it you can see Teresa glowing, and hear and see Chris fluting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

art of hosting, storytime

Just back from 4 days in the embrace of the deep woods surrounding the Whidbey Institute, with Ashley and Chris and Jeff (and when are you going to go public with your blog, dear Sheri?) and more long-time and newly-discovered friends, for the Art of Hosting retreat.

I've got lots of stuff to share about it and will start with this, a reflection that came out of a storytime exercise, when we allowed ourselves to open into imagining our own lives with a mythic view. Here's my story of our time together:

Once upon a time, there was a heart wrapped in light and dark and colors, walking and sleeping in the wide world.

One day, she was invited into a circle of other hearts wrapped in light and dark and colors. She decided to say no thank you to the invitation because she thought that the cost to enter was too great.

Then she learned that some of the other hearts who would be present were hearts who’d already shared with her the memory of being all One Heart. And that reminded her that she already and always had more than enough to afford the cost of joining the circle.

And she changed her “no” to “yes”.

The circle was very bright, and light and dark. With the rhythms of poem and story, laughter and silence, breathing in and breathing out, the hearts began to remember everything, and to move in patterns of curiosity and courage and love.

Lucky hearts! To be held wide by soft-eyed heart defenders, tall deep trees, bird songs, moon and rock. All the languages of the world came in, feeling the welcome to be heard.

The circle of hearts grew such deep roots and such sky-tipped branches that the space in the middle opened its arms in every direction. In such a space the hearts grew ripe – full of seed and sweetness, tender and soft and succulent. Then some of the hearts broke open and the seeds spilled out. The patterns of curiosity and courage and love were very strong, and they caught the seeds and knitted the broken hearts.

Because hearts are like fruit, but they are not fruit.

Hearts can mend, to grow full and ripe and to break open again, and again. Some hearts stay hard all their lives, and some are soft, but they all break some time.

This heart learns in the end, and in the beginning and in the middle, that no cost is too great, to live in space shot through with the jeweled net patterns of curiosity, courage and love.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

with you always, in here

I have posted parts of this Rumi poem other times before, but the moon is very bright tonight, and it's both the birthday of my friend & rabbi, Ted Falcon, and the first anniversary of the passing of my friend & teacher, Bill Mitchell, and these verses are whispering again in my mind.

Be Melting Snow

Totally conscious, and apropos of nothing, you come to see me.

Is someone here? I ask.
The Moon. The full moon is inside your house.

My friends and I go running out into the street.

I'm in here
, comes a voice from the house, but we aren't listening.
We're looking up at the sky.

Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you
There's no need to go outside.

Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.

A white flower grows in the quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

new moon and mercury

a few dream seeds
shine in the upturned palm of my hand.

they tremble and hum
and start to sing,
and I can glimpse the dream
of the worlds they want to be.

first, long and delicate roots unfurl,
thirsty for the dark and the cold.
then tender leaf and vast clouds form,
deserts shimmer and pray,
mountains rise and oceans pour,
from each seed
that you've dreamed alive,

and breathless, countless, stars.

the seeds go back to sleep for now.
you dream them stronger
and sweeter,
you roll them to a finer polish
with your elegant fingers
and make them ready for the light.

I tuck their memory
into a soft and very quiet place
and wait
for the old spells to break
and the new magic
to spill in.

moon and mercury photo credit

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

beannacht, embraced by beauty

I learned from the Panhala poetry listserv of the recent and sudden passing of Irish theologian - poet - philosopher John O'Donohue, the author of many books including Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, and Beauty: The Invisible Embrace -- Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope. And of the following favorite blessing, sent out by Joe of Panhala yesterday:

[Last Friday, Barbara Knight Katz, a member of Panhala, wrote to inform me that John O'Donohue had died unexpectedly. In Barbara's words, "John's life was a blessing to all of us who knew and loved him, and to all who love his poetry and wisdom." His life was a blessing; the world needs all the divinely mad Irishmen it can get....]

"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding."
-- John O'Donohue
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~
(Echoes of Memory)

John O'Donohue's dear friend, fellow poet and lover of Ireland David Whyte, wrote a warm and sad and loving tribute to his friend, which finishes as, it should, with a poem:
...John was a love-letter to humanity from some address in the firmament we have yet to find and locate, though we may wander many a year looking or listening for it. He has gone home to that original address and cannot be spoken with except in the quiet cradle of the imagination that he dared to visit so often himself. As a way of sending a love letter in return, I wrote this poem for him a good few years ago. I hope it can still reach him now, wherever he is to be found and that he finds it as good a representation as he did when he lived and breathed. I remember the bright, surprised and amused intelligence in his eyes when I first read it to him, sitting by his fire in Connemara. It brings him back to me even as I read it now, as I hope it does for you.

Looking Out From Clare
For John O'Donohue

There’s a great spring in you
all bud and blossom
and March laughter
I’ve always loved.

Your face framed
against the bay
and the whisper
of some arriving joke
playing at the mouth,
your lightning raid
on the eternal
melting the serious line
to absurdity.

I look around and see
the last days of winter
broken away
for all those
listening or watching,
all come to life now
with the first pale sun on their face
for many a month,
remembering how to laugh.

But most of all I love
the heft and weight
and swing of that sea
behind it all, some other tide
racing toward the shore,
or receding to the calmness
where no light or laughter
lives for long.

The way you surface
from those atmospheres
again and again,
your emergence seems to make
you a lover of horizons
but your visitation
of darkness shows.

Then away from you
I can see you only alone
on the strand
walking to the sea
on the north coast of Clare
toward the end
of an unendurable winter
taking your first swim
of the year.

The March scald
of cold ocean
even in May about to tighten
and bud you into spring.

You look across
to the mountains in Connemara
framing, only for now,
your horizon.

You look and look, and look,
beyond all looking.

David Whyte

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

everything reminds me of everything else

Actually, the title of this post ought to be: "everything reminds me of everything else, and then I forget what I came in here for." Or, "everything reminds me of everything else, and that's why I haven't been able to finish a blog post for such a long time."

It's like when you clean off one shelf or counter and then all of a sudden everything else looks so much worse and you end up cleaning everything, and not actually finishing the thing you were doing (writing) before.

This morning I had a middle-eastern/mediterranean kind of breakfast, with salad and olives and feta and oregano. I thought a ripe pear with some yogurt and honey would go nicely with the rest of my meal, except that we're out of both yogurt and honey. Which made me think of A Taste of Honey by Lizz Wright so I went to put that in the CD player, but I don't have it on CD, so I put a disc in my computer to burn and then (after I checked my email and tidied up my messy desk) went back in the kitchen to slice my pear. The juiciness of the pear reminded me of my lack of honey, which in turn reminded me of a post I read just recently (because I am also very behind on reading) by the chocolate lady that mentions "dark, winey, bamboo honey", which made me think of of agave syrup, because it's dark, and which I do have, so I put some in my tea (after putting the new CD in the CD player, and sweeping the floor), and it (the combination of "dark" and "honey") also reminded me of seeing a friend put honey in his coffee, which I haven't ever done. Thinking of him reminded me that we were joking the other day about a competition to see who could waste time most efficiently, and I suddenly noticed that my train of thought kept circling and looping me backwards, because going forwards feels a little bit like being perched on the the foggy brink of what might be a meandering slope but it might be a steep cliff and I am just on the verge of finding out which.

The train image reminded me of a book I want to read, called Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel, by Pascal Mercier, so I went on-line and put it in my shopping cart for later.

Ah! But what about that foggy brink? Just in the past few
weeks (after months of tilling-the-ground work), the six months between January and June '08 have lit up with great potential, and probable intense challenge.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Church, the president of the university where I teach part-time, invited me to take on a role there as a "catalyst," to shine a light on the gap between "our walk" and "our talk" and to help bring together the people in the community who care about invoking and embodying the university's highest purpose (well, that's how I'm describing the role today -- I imagine the description will change as I begin to actually live in to it). Lucky for me I am going to be able to participate in an Art of Hosting and Convening Conversations that Matter training at the Whidbey Institute at the end of January. (I am so looking forward to asking Chris Corrigan the many questions that I've already started accumulating like little shiny suitcases ;-)) The training is great timing for me and so well-related to the theme of "radical hospitality" that Dr. Church shared with the university community when he first joined us two years ago. My initial agreement with the university is to do this work for six months and then in June we'll decide whether it's been good or not.

On the same day two weeks ago, the executive committee of Bet Alef's board of directors resigned in frustration and anger. Later in the week, I was invited, along with half a dozen other members, to join the remaining directors on an interim board (again, January through June). There is a great opportunity to become very clear about the essence and purpose of the organization, as well as a great challenge to understand honestly what has gone awry.

I have also been extending invitations, myself. For one, I've asked my young colleague Joshua Leahy (who is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist, like I am) to join my clinic, with the idea in the back of my mind (OK, maybe it's not exactly in the back) of cultivating him as a practitioner to take on some or a lot of my practice (by June, of course) should I end up working more for the university. We went to a day on "Mentoring: Tending the Interdependence Between Generations," another rich offering at the Whidbey Institute, and I'll post some of my notes from that one of these days -- depending on where my train of thought and I end up going in the next few months. Do wish me luck!

Well, I thought maybe this would be my last post of 2007 but I didn't actually finish it till tonight, and so it's my first post of 2008 instead. May this year bring us all joy and health, inspiring challenges, and deep blessing.

Which reminds me! I meant to post this video that was shared on KarmaTube some time ago, but the beginning of a new year is a perfect time to watch and hear it again.