Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Dweller Within

We can only reach the end of a difficult road or a dark night of the soul by accepting that we must grow according to our own rhythm, our own nature - seriously and calmly; when we try to embrace the questions without forcing the answers. This means, that to receive the Divine Voice - the Dweller Within - we have to make ourselves the interpretor of her silence, lending her our own breath when hers is no more then an inaudible and weak sigh.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Essence of Desire

I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all desires I have ever known
just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire:
To hold beauty
in my soul's


John of the Cross

Painting by Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Art of Peace

Two and a half millennia ago in China a military strategist called Sun Tzu wrote a book about such martial matters. Sun Tzu called his book The Art of War, and he intended it as a guidebook for those who wished to learn and to put into practice the ways of war outlined in his text. The universe is all about balance, and if there exists such an idea as war being an art and an apparently worthy subject for study, should there not also somewhere exist an ‘Art of Peace’; a martial study that is equally committed to practicing techniques whose intention is to ensure that peace and the pursuit of peace has at least as much of a voice as more warlike actions?

Two of my children, brother and sister, have practiced the Japanese martial art of Aikido. I must admit that, had I been younger and enjoying better health, I would have liked to have practiced with them! Frequently enough we might find ourselves in situations which make demands upon us, upon our sense of focus and concentration, and we might feel that our inner peace has been taken from us. It is in such situations that Aikido could come to our aid. Aikido is relatively modern, and was developed over the period between the 1920’s and the 1960’s by Morihei Uyeshiba, who is often referred to by his title of O-Sensei, meaning ‘Great Teacher’. In practice it places an emphasis on dynamically using one’s own energy to resist any potential attacks from others. In its essence it is therefore a strategy for defence rather than one of competitive aggression, but Aikido offers us more than simple self-defence techniques.

In evolving Aikido, O-Sensei employed a spiritual fusion originating from his interaction with the Oomoto-kyo (‘Great Source’) religion, whose leaders have been predominantly female. To this O-Sensei added streams of spiritual teaching stemming from both Shinto and Buddhism. ‘Aikido’ can be translated as "the way to union with universal energy" or "the way of unified energy". Another common interpretation of the Japanese characters is “harmony, spirit and way”, so Aikido can also be taken to mean "the way of spiritual harmony" or "the art of peace". And so in O-Sensei’s Aikido we have found our countering martial equivalent for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War! And there is one more layer to add to this spiritual mix.

The Japanese word for "love" also happens to be pronounced ‘ai’. In later life, O-Sensei emphasized this interpretation of ‘ai’. In his quest for a less aggressive approach, O-Sensei received a divine inspiration that led him away from the violent nature of his previous martial training, and took him instead towards a "spirit of peace". O-Sensei ultimately said that the way of the warrior is the "way of divine love that nurtures and protects all things", and this surely is the ultimate meaning of such a practice: that the way of a true warrior can as equally, and perhaps even more significantly, be one which practices peace.

Painting by Matsubayashi Keigetsu

Monday, September 2, 2019

Beauty and the Beast

I remember at a film festival watching Jean Cocteau’s classic version of this famous fairy tale and being unexpectedly disappointed at the end when, transformed through Beauty’s love, the monstrous but endearing Beast became the tiresomely-handsome prince! The tale endures because the lessons which it contains are so readily accessible: true love sees beyond outward appearances, and love is about acceptance of the other for who that person really is. These truths weave their way through the story, and we recognise and respond to them, and so keep the tale fresh and alive through the generations. But is it still possible to discover new truths in the tale?

Some 40 years ago, a deranged Hungarian stood in front of one of the most beautiful works of the spirit which art has created. Without warning, he leapt at the marble statue and dealt it repeated blows with a hammer, smashing off the left arm, and leaving the face severely damaged. Shattered fragments of Michelangelo’s Pieta lay strewn across the floor of the Vatican before staff and shocked onlookers could react. It took more than five months just to collect and identify the various fragments – one tiny chipping being identified as the eyelid of Mary, who in the statue holds the body of the crucified Christ, her son.

Why did this man commit such a terrible act of destruction? Even given his apparent mental instability, why destroy such beauty? The principal damage to the marble was directed, not at the crucified body which she supports, but at the figure of Mary. But Michelangelo does not show us Mary’s features contorted with grief, as was customary with a portrayal of the Pieta. Instead, her features seem to embody a transcendence which lifts both her and us beyond the greatest pain of the soul which a mother – and specifically this mother – has to endure: a manifestation of beauty which for one man apparently proved unbearable.

It seems that it is not just the acceptance by Beauty of the Beast which should concern us, but the reverse. We are at times the Beast who needs to accept a transcendent and confronting Beauty. In Afghanistan the Taliban, driven by religious fanaticism, reduced with dynamite the millennia-old serene statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyan to broken rubble. Many other examples of such destruction of created beauty are provided by history. What is beautiful must, it seems, be destroyed for one reason or another. And such destruction is not limited to the created works of artists both known and unknown. An idyllic valley is flooded to make way for a giant dam. Whole forests are cut down and reduced to waste land, or for housing development. The natural world around us, the most beautiful treasure which we have in our care, is ransacked, either for its resources or in the name of a dubious progress.

It is as if the human soul is torn between that soul’s need for the experience of beauty and an equal need to destroy it. In the story of Beauty and the Beast we all recognise the inner work to which Beauty has to commit herself before she is able to accept the appearance of the Beast. But what tends to be overlooked is the equal commitment which the Beast needs to make in order to accept – and to allow to exist – the soul-healing appearance of Beauty.

Photograph courtesy of the Palace Theatre in Devon, UK

Sculpture of Michelangelos Pieta

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Aho Willow, Tree of Love

Aho Sacred Tree of Life,
The root of every tree,
Thank you for giving
The gifts you give to me.

Aho Standing People,
From you I will learn,
To keep my roots well planted,
Yet reach for Grandfather Sun.

Aho Willow, Tree of Love,
Teach me to bend,
Till I come full circle,
Each relation as my friend.


 From The Sacred Path Cards, Standing People, by Jamie Sams


Standing by my Weeping Willow October 2017,
shortly before I became ill.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

And God Be With You

Power of raven be yours, 
Power of eagle be yours, 
Power of the Fiann. 

Power of storm be yours, 
Power of moon be yours, 
Power of sun. 

Power of sea be yours, 
Power of land be yours, 
Power of heaven. 

Goodness of sea be yours, 
Goodness of earth be yours, 
Goodness of heaven. 

Each day be joyous to you, 
No day be grievous to you, 
Honor and compassion. 

Love of each face be yours, 
Death on pillow be yours, 
And God be with you.


This prayer comes from the Highlands of Scotland, 
recorded (in Gaelic) more than one hundred years ago.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Prayer for All to be Comforted

The following words were written by dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés five years ago when the Malaysian airliner was shot down from the sky. This tragic event has been commemorated throughout the world, but especially here in Holland, where so many families were drastically shattered and impacted.

Today I respectfully share this with you: 

Dear Brave Souls: Please if you would, join me in our bowed heads, moments of silence for the innocent souls lost on the Malaysian airliner MH17, shot down over Ukraine. Near 300 elders, mommies, daddies, children, babies, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers, wives, husbands from many different nations across our world, lost suddenly and utterly.

Consider this post and the lines around it, our tiny outdoor chapel. Prayer, as I've told those who ask "teach me how to pray?" is just this: thoughts that arise from the goodness of your heart, your spirit and your soul... those thoughts aimed outward... to their exact destination. Thoughts of comfort, sorrow, hope, praise, strength.... these are prayers. Each in her own way. Each in his own way. As each sees fit.

There are many horrors ongoing on our planet this very day. Here, just for now, let us join together in care-prayer for this one tragedy, this one extreme crime against humanity, and then allow our prayers to flow toward 'whomever has need this day.' 

By my sights between the worlds, I see that prayer, that is, thought originating from the goodness of Self, is truly a river. The gates are the mind, the heart, the child spirit. Allowing this mind, this heart, this child spirit within each of us... to flow with thoughts of kindness, care, regard, comfort... 

allows a huge river, an endless river within us, to flow and flow to all streams, all creeks, all artesian wells, all water tables-- 'out there'... all of which, we can help to fill daily, ESPECIALLY for those who come to the water daily, consciously or unconsciously looking to be washed, healed, thirst for life and means for life, sated for one more day. Ours is not to qualify who drinks from the water. Ours is just to cause the water to continue to flow.

We can each contribute to that huge psychic force of good... through raising, releasing our caring thoughts. Remember how I told you in the Weeping Willow poem, how my grandmother said when asked how to deal with the flotsam and trash and boulders in the water: "We are not the debris. We are the river." 

Prayer for All to be Comforted

May all those souls lost, rest in peace 
and those who are called, remain near us 
and help us from their spiritual home now. 

May those who have suddenly lost 
precious loved ones, be comforted 
not just by human beings, but by the angels 
who also 'look like' human beings, 
and by those angelic forces of nature,
of creatures, weather and winds
that ever come near to comfort the grieving. 

May all see signs of their loved one's
in beautiful ways. 
May all be given the time to mourn 
and be wrapped in fire walls
and protected in their mourning times. 

May all who question, why 
people still laugh in the halls
when there is so much tragedy
in one's own life,
why there is still the sun shining
when it is so cold and dark
from loss of one's loves,
why the moon can possibly still rise
when there is no light left inside us...

Please know that in these 
Great Beings of life rising
again and again, in innocent laughter,
in the beauty of sunlight,
in the magnitude of the moon 
those places and sights
are being held for us, 
held for us by others
living them, seeing them, cherishing them--
until the day that we will ourselves
emerge from walking and wandering
in the land of the dead, 
and come back to life again. 

Laughter and sun and moon
are the promises kept that 
our hearts one day, will be light again,
that our hearts will be in sunlight again,
that our nights will have beauty 
and reflection once again. 

For now let us lean
as we find it useful and helpful
into this water:
from Solomon - the Ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season, 
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; 
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up 
that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; 
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, 
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, 
and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; 
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; 
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

Though these words are sometimes interpreted as taking one way or the other, and while that can be true, it is more so a poem-prayer, about balance.. of holding opposites together in a way that creates a third.. a third attitude, a third insight, a third way of walking wisely in the world that is neither one or the other, but something more gracious, something more of oppositions held in the eternal Light. 

May it be so for thee
May it be so for me
May it be so for us all


With love, 
from Clarissa Pinkola Estés


Sculpture detail by Antonio Cordova

Sunday, July 14, 2019


They are coming to life,
They are coming!
They are singing back to us.
And they are dancing!
Mama mia!

The Venus of Willendorf has 
hip rocked open the entrance doors
of Vienna’s Natural History Museum.
She’s waltzing down the Strasse,
pendulous breasts swinging.
Her hands which have rested on them
for millennia are arcing
through the air
like two ecstatic love birds.

Meanwhile in Malta’s Hypogeum, 
The Sleeping Lady is waking from labyrinthine dreams, 
pregnant with power for healing.
She is opening her eyes, 
rolling her vast thighs over
the platform sides. 
Snakes are spiraling from her ankles to the ceiling.

In every corner of the planet, they are breaking out of their prisons -
archaeological sites where there are no sacred rites,
vaults and glass boxes in temperature controlled rooms
where they are seldom seen and there is no touching.

They are growing back their missing limbs,
repainting themselves in the colour of life.
And they are dancing.
It is harvest time. 
The moon is full and fat and buttery.

She is spreading her liminal light along the pathways
where hundreds of them are streaming -
cavorting, cackling and mischieving.

Every woman who has a besom has snatched it from the closet
And is flying out the back door to greet them.

And now the Venus of Laussel and Dolni Vestonice
have joined to make an archway.
With a shimmy and a shindig, Sheila-Na-Gig
(dauntless icon of fecundity and pleasure)
jostles through first, snapping her purse
revealing and concealing her treasure.

They are all here.
Grain goddesses, crowned snake goddesses,
uterine egg-shaped goddesses,
bird-faced goddesses, birth-giving goddesses.
Dancing for our lives. 
Dancing for our future.
Dancing for the Earth. 
Dancing for the Great Mother.

Debra Hall

Venus of Tan-Tan (between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago)
Venus of Willendorf  (25.000 BCE - 22.000 BCE)
Venus of Laussel (c. 23.000 BCE)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Sweet Taste of Grief

I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow
and called out: "It tastes sweet, does it not?"

"You have caught me",  grief answered, 
"and you have ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow,
when you know it's a blessing?"

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Painting by Cesare Laurenti

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Wordless Song

In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song 
A song that lives in the seed of my heart. 
It refuses to melt with ink on parchment; 
It engulfs my affection 
In a transparent cloak and flows, 
But not upon my lips. 
How can I sigh it? 
I fear it may mingle with earthly ether; 
To whom shall I sing it? 
It dwells in the house of my soul, 
In fear of harsh ears. 
When I look into my inner eyes 
I see the shadow of its shadow; 
When I touch my fingertips 
I feel its vibrations. 
The deeds of my hands heed its presence 
As a lake must reflect the glittering stars; 
My tears reveal it, as bright drops of dew 
Reveal the secret of a withering rose. 
It is a song composed by contemplation, 
And published by silence, 
And shunned by clamor, 
And folded by truth, 
And repeated by dreams, 
And understood by love, 
And hidden by awakening, 
And sung by the soul. 
It is the song of love; 
What Cain or Esau could sing it? 
It is more fragrant than jasmine; 
What voice could enslave it? 
It is heart bound, as a virgin's secret; 
What string could quiver it? 
Who dares unite the roar of the sea 
And the singing of the nightingale? 
Who dares compare the shrieking tempest 
To the sigh of an infant? 
Who dares speak aloud the words 
Intended for the heart to speak? 
What human dares sing in voice 
The Song of God? 

Poem and Painting
Khalil Gibran

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Prayer to the Shekhinah

Come be our mother we are your young ones
Come be our bride we are your lover
Come be our dwelling we are your inhabitants
Come be our game we are your players
Come be our punishment we are your sinners
Come be our ocean we are your swimmers
Come be our victory we are your army
Come be our laughter we are your story
Come be our Shekhinah we are your glory
We believe that you live
though you delay we believe you will certainly come....

When the transformation happens as it must
When we remember
When she wakes from her long repose in us
When she wipes the nightmare 
of history from her eyes
When she returns from exile
When she utters her voice in the streets
In the opening of the gates
How long, you simple ones, will you
Love simplicity, and the scorners delight
In their scorning, and fools hate knowledge
When she enters the modern world
When she crosses the land
Shaking her breasts and hips
With timbrels and with dances
magnified and sanctified
Exalted and honored
Blessed and glorified
When she causes tyranny
To vanish
When she and he meet
When they behold each other face to face
when they become naked and not ashamed
On that day will our God be One
and their name One

Shekhinah bless us and keep us
Shekhinah shine your face on us
Shekhinah turn your countenance
To us and give us peace

From Nakedness of the Fathers. Alicia Ostriker is a renowned poet, essayist, and midrashist, and the author of many books of midrash, prose and poetry, including Nakedness of the Fathers and The Volcano Sequence.

Image found on Pinterest