Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Transforming Void

Our world is full of distractions. When we feel too crowded-in, we talk in terms of ‘taking a break’, or we might even express a wish to ‘get away from it all’. We might think of such places as being away from the crowd, as offering us a longed-for solitude. But it is perhaps the case that, were we truly to find ourselves in such extreme isolation, we would long for social company, for the daily round of meeting and chatting which we had become conditioned to and which we then would miss. The security of an ‘away-from-it-all’ holiday lies in knowing that it is limited in time, and that we soon-enough will ‘get back to it all’.

But what about those who ‘get away from it all’ and then choose not to return? A previous post on my blog tells the story of Mary of Egypt, a 6th-century hermit who lived in total seclusion in the Jordanian Desert, not for months, nor even for years, but for almost five long decades. Mary was a seeker, a soul on a quest for an encounter with the Spirit, and in this sense her solitary existence was also a pilgrimage: a journey into herself across an inner void perhaps more vast than the great and unforgiving void of the barren wastelands which surrounded her. 

A woman knows this void well. In a world whose social structures, whose very belief systems, are places built upon foundations of male power, women own this inner void as part of their natural estate. From the line of succession of a monarch to that monarch’s eldest son, from a deity who is thought of as being essentially masculine to that deity’s son, from religious beliefs whose texts quite literally spell out that men are a superior creation to women, from places of worship where women must occupy a segregated space that sometimes is actually hidden from the sight of the male congregation: all conspire to drive a woman into her own inner void and claim it as her own. For often-enough it is this emptiness which is the only place that is truly left to her.

But emptiness is power, for a void is never truly ‘empty’. Perhaps we do not need to actually live in a desert or in some other isolated place to experience this sense of pilgrimage, of self-exile. If what is within us, and sometimes what surrounds us, can at times seem like a void which might lead us to bleak despair, then that is perhaps the very moment to remember that it is the seeming emptiness of a void which can be full of the potential for transformation, and that what we experience as a void in our lives is not only not empty, but actually full of promise. The difference is only in our point of view, in how we choose to see the situation.

Who knows what miraculous mandalas Mary might have glimpsed in the red Jordanian sands? When Mary crossed the Jordan to live her life of self-imposed exile she took with her just three loaves of bread. The loaves quickly dried out and became inedible but Mary still managed to survive, for bread lasts but a little while, and yet the sustaining spirit endures.





Photo credit: India Flint

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We Are Made For These Times


One night in my dream I heard a clear voice. The voice was so vivid that the phrase remained with me when I awoke. It had said to me: ‘You are made for these times’.

Belief sometimes comes before understanding. I knew that the words struck a chord with me, for they voiced what I do indeed believe: that I truly am meant to be here now, in this time. But why in such a difficult time? Both in my personal life and in unfolding world events there has been much to cope with. We prefer to make decisions based upon sound judgement and known circumstances, but so often we can find ourselves in a situation where we know so little about what might happen as a result of our decision, but we have to make that decision anyway. 

We make our decision, and we do our best to adapt to the changed circumstances. Adaptation is an existential process, certainly if it is in a phase of not knowing where it all might lead to. What are we trying to adapt to? And how do we grow and bear fruit? To find this out is a challenge which we all face in this day and age. But since adaptation is something that simply 'happens', it is not always possible to play a steering part in this process.

We cannot simply decide when and in which direction we adapt. What we instead can do is to let our soul-light shine and radiate outwards - not only by trying to be 'good' and acting out those ideals we think are positive, but by allowing the intrinsic nature of our inner being to be, unfettered by judgement or opinions. As the world is going through change and transformation we also are undergoing transformation on an individual scale. Even those of us who might not even think of ourselves as being particularly intuitive must now be feeling that something big is happening around us, that we are being driven towards… well, towards what, exactly?

There are many things happening right now which suddenly seem to be moving directly against what we might have hoped for: a more peaceful, more enlightened world – which also is a world in which women and men respect each other on equal terms, and children can be children, and not under-age workers or child soldiers. Now, because of these things, it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed by events, to feel that we are powerless against such a tidal flow of negative forces. We are not.

Our personal power is something which can never be taken from us. It is our personal power that gives us the ability to transform. To realize this is to empower ourselves, and this is when our individual transformation becomes a light to those around us, and in turn to those around them, and the power of this ripple effect expands outwards and transforms the greater world. Yes, these times are difficult, but that is exactly why we are here now. This is the time and this is the place, wherever that place may be, to make our stand and let our soul-light shine, for the darker the shadows, the more fiercely this soul-light will burn. We, all of us, ‘are made for these times’.

I wish you, my dear reader, all the trust and soul-power to shine brightly throughout the coming year.





Painting by Greg Spalenka

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Greetings



"Christmas, my child, is love in action"
- Dale Evans

I wish my readers 
Love, Joy and Peace 
during this Christmas season 
and beyond.

Ik wens u vredige dagen, en een gezegend Kerstmis toe. 




Illustration by Loek Koopman



Friday, December 16, 2016

A Season of Waiting



On the threshold
waiting
for the golden light
that desires to mirror itself
in my heart
inside
is silence

Advent, we say, is the season of waiting. We might more truly say that Advent is the season of desire - and desire unfulfilled, at that. Waiting is a form of emptiness, but it’s an emptiness that implies expectation: we wait for someone or something, do we not? And we desire the arrival of what we await.

In our hectic world we constantly face a barrage of distractions, from the chattering voices of social media with which we constantly keep in touch via our ubiquitous smartphones, from the pressures of commercialism which urge us to buy, buy, buy, at the very time of the year when we should be retreating into ourselves in silent contemplation and reflection. For this also is an aspect of advent: it is – or should be – a time of quiet reflection.

If only we can manage to be silent in ourselves, to still all those chattering voices which distract us, then we allow the true spirit of advent to reveal itself. That sense of expectant wonder is always present. Advent is in every moment. And that moment is universal. “Peace, be still.” were the words we are told Jesus spoke to calm the storm on that far Sea of Galilee. If we allow those words to echo in our hearts, whether we are Christian or not, and whether we celebrate the Christian day of Advent or not, we allow the true spirit of a universal advent to emerge, and we find ourselves filled with a renewing spirit of anticipation, wonder and silent joy.



Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Journeying Star


Oh my heart, my other self;
you who dwell in city or in desert,
or in the cathedral silence of forests,
or close by the sea’s great voice
which is my voice also,
you look up and wonder at my shining.

Do you ask yourself:
what keeps me fixed in the night?
Why do I not journey
like the white and journeying moon?
There surely is heaven enough
in which to move;
there surely is space enough
for me to arc across the dark
above your head.

And yet I remain in my appointed place,
your dependable star,
obedient to your own stillness,
as fixed in my place as you are in yours:
we two are as immobile as mountains.

Perhaps you imagine
that if you remain in your place
then you always can find me;
you look up, and there I shall be:
we two are as predictable as the tides.

And then one night you move.
For the first time you dare
to take a single step,
and wonder of wonders:
I take that step with you.
You begin to walk, you move:
and I move with you.

And so your step becomes a journey,
and I journey with you
towards some promise,
some appointed destiny
some assignation rich with moment
for you and all who journey with you
towards your secret-bright redemption.

But wonder of wonders:
for the whole time you have been travelling
it is I who have remained in my appointed place:
it is you, my heart, who have been journeying;
and still you always can find me,
and I shall be with you
at your secret-bright redemption.




Illustration by Edmund Dulac, from the book The Stealers of Light by the Queen of Roumania

Thursday, November 24, 2016

As Dew on the Earth

Choose now life
It descends from heaven
as dew on the earth
as light out of darkness
It comes as a storm wind
in squalls of darkness and light
Blessed are your nights, blessed are your days
your heart, your mind, your face.

*
Nu kies dan het leven
het daalt uit de hemel
als dauw op de aarde
als licht uit het donker.
Het komt als een stormwind 
in vlagen van donker en licht
Gezegend je nachten, gezegend je dagen,
je hart,  je verstand,  je gezicht.`

Huub Oosterhuis
translation by me


Artwork by Frank Zumbach

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Like the Butterfly


See the bluebell in the rain:
how she bends  
her head to the storm
in humble trust
that the butterfly
seeking refuge,
letting her wet wings dry,
will cling on, will endure
until the storm has passed.

But even a flower 
cannot capture the breeze
and keep it.
So is the deepest love,
like the butterfly,
here for only a moment
and gone the next.

Change is constant
And love as well
is flowering constantly
with fragrant petals
opening and closing...
and falling away once more.





Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Waves


The waves today are whales:
curling flukes of foam
that dissolve and vanish forevermore
as each wave folds upon itself
to break at my feet in a rush of white
here on the Oregon shore.

These are the leviathans of the Pacific
become one with their ocean home,
but more than this: these journeying giants
have now become the ocean itself:
tails of water, tails of foam.

In my vision it is the waves
which take the forms of tails,
slapping and rushing at the sand
to beach themselves at last,
wet and exhausted on the shore.

There are no whales, not today.
Perhaps tomorrow,
if I walk this same stretch of shore I will see them:
plumes of mist in the grey distance,
cruising the tug of currents
to their feeding grounds in the north.

For today, I have the white tails of the waves
with their memories older than an age
to remind me of times before my own
when all was new and beginning,
and the whales, the slide of currents,
the great ocean’s roll
were all and everything,
and the floating moon and the island sun
and the whales and the waves and my soul,
then as now, were one.






Sunday, October 16, 2016

More than One Tone




Whisper
like a twig does
with a bird
like a snowdrop does
with the light
to hear a sigh
more than one tone of the harp
in one little shell






Monday, October 3, 2016

Feathers


There's a room I can glimpse in my mirror
Far and far from my home
This room is a river of fire
And this room is a circle of stones
This room is a plain that's as wide as the world
And this room is a land unknown
This room is a place where the owl calls
Through forests of mystery
And this room is a shore where the wild wave horses
Toss their white manes in the sea.

Feathers for my mirror
Feathers for my wings
Feathers for the world
Where the wild wolf sings
Feathers for my stories
Feathers for my pain
Feathers for my shelter
From the night's dark rain.

But if this room is a shadow
And if this room is a dream
And if this room is only a room
Then how would my mirror seem?

But feathered is my mirror
Feathered are my wings
And feathered is the world
Where my wild wolf sings
Feathered is the drum
Feathered is the moon
Feathered is the heart
That journeys alone.

And each feather that I find on my pathway
Each feather I must work to earn
I will know for each feather
That I give to my mirror
My mirror gives me one in return.



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nereid


How my body aches!
The tyrant shore's heaviness
drugs my tired limbs.
My throat is raw from breathing in
this unfamiliar, unseen nothing.
How can I not be exhausted
from such sustained effort
merely to remain alive
in this alien world of air?
Now dawn's silent light
has snared me,
has cast a silken net
across my glistening skin,
tight and unforgiving.

How can I know
how much time has passed
since I stranded here?
A single night?
A cycle of the white and silent moon?
A thousand years?
I recall stories of others of my kind,
washed ashore and becoming something other,
both less and more than they had been.
They never returned.

But in my struggle with the tides,
with the tug and slide of currents,
with life itself,
even in my struggle with this cruel nothing,
which cracks my throat with every breath,
I am resolved.
I will not become as those
whose lives are lived
in this unfamiliar, alien world of air.
I will not become something
other than who I truly am.

And so I mark my time.
I will wait patiently in this pain of dawn
I will wait in the sun's heat soon to come
I will wait curled up, unmoving:
a silken shadow where no shadows fall.
I will wait until some kind and trusting tide
returns me to my ocean home
in a single night,
or in a cycle of the white and silent moon,
or in a thousand years.

How could I live in this alien air?
How could my feet tread this alien earth?
I am as patient as the tides,
as inscrutable as my Mother Ocean
whose child I am
forever.