Cultivate a Calm and Healing Presence

I know people who can walk into a room and bring a sense of calm. Others might be nervous or upset, but these people seem to bring a peaceful presence just by showing up. 

I want to be more like them.

If I’m agitated, other people pick can up on my emotions and become agitated too. We humans tend to do that because we are socially attuned to each other’s moods. Likewise, if I can center myself, others can sense that and become more grounded.

When I’m open enough to listen deeply to someone without agenda or needing to counterpoint or defend, I create a space where they can feel heard, and they are more able to release their need for agenda or counterpoint or defense. Creating a space of deep listening brings the healing quality of connection, but it is not easy to do in stressful conversations.

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My Mother Is in Hospice

On a normal morning, my regular practice made sense. Stretches and meditation were part of a comfortable routine. The world seemed stable, perhaps hinting that small corners of life were controllable.

But since mom fell, nothing has been normal.

For the past month, my days have turned upside down. My mother, 86, has not recovered well from her broken hip and pneumonia. Despite steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory treatments, the infections worsened, her lungs filled with fluid, and her breathing capacity eroded to a shallow spot at the top of her chest.

The fall and the hip surgery were traumatic; the struggle with pneumonia has been tortuous; and now the decision to enter hospice has been a gut-punch, hitting my father the hardest as he watches his sweetheart of 70 years slowly recede. This family emergency has me flailing to find a handhold.

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Prayer for 2024

Although prayer is often thought of as the making of a request, it’s much more than that. A deeper practice enters prayer as a conversation, a way of being in relationship.

Prayer deepens our relationship with our inner world. It allows us to assemble our vague, unstated gratitudes and longings into a coherent expression, revealing hidden meaning about what is important or troubling to us.

Prayer deepens our relationship with our outer world. It brings focus to the state of our relations with people and events, showing where and how we are connected or disconnected.

And prayer deepens our relationship with the field of consciousness that houses our individual awareness. It reminds us we are more than separate beings trying to live and thrive among other separate beings; we are the tips of the waves of an ocean, small eddies of individuality swimming in a giant sea.

Each of our prayers is vitally important because it is a unique expression of universal themes. No other voice has our singular nature, quirks, insights, life history, or personal slant on the cosmos. Stating our prayers out loud collects our separate identities and joins them into a greater body.

And so here is mine, a prayer for 2024, in hopes that my voice will join with yours and a sea of others in the grand fellowship to which we all belong.


Prayer for 2024

Spirit, I invite you to me.
Let me open to you and feel the power of your presence. 

Ground me in my body, here and now,
In this space and time, fully available in this moment.
Fill me with your energy and potential.

Expand my senses, uplift my heart, reveal my higher self to me.
Let me sense the community of souls who share my longings,
Who strengthen me, who connect me to the whole.

I am grateful for the blessings in my life, for the material comforts
I enjoy in a world where so many go without, for the kindnesses
I receive, for the ability to feel joy, and for the boundless capacity
To give and receive love.

I acknowledge that the world can feel chaotic and dangerous.
I am troubled by the current of the times, with war, destruction,
Discord, fragmentation, and the senseless suffering of innocents. 
I am often left confused, searching for clarity and relief.

Strengthen me. Help me know that I am capable of meeting
Life as it unfolds. Be with me when I am fearful, when my desire for
Certainty makes me forget that the future is unknowable.

Show me where I have a part to play. Let me be moved to act in
Ways that nudge the coming changes to the good. Not action
Formed in anger, for there is already too much anger and poison
In the world, but action that is antidote.

Guide me to the stillpoint, the calm amidst the motion, the quiet
Peace where I can find my breath and see more clearly the
Trajectory of my decisions. Center me in silence where a
Softer and more generous wisdom will inform my better actions.

And give me hope.
Open me to trust that the roadway of this human project,
Though strewn with the devastating litter of our mistakes,
Is advancing toward something worthy of our efforts. 

In service to our common good,
In surrender to what comes,
By the grace of all that is,

Amen


What gratitudes and longings do you have? What prayer would you voice for the coming year? The roadway continues, a patchwork of stones laid out before you, ready to be walked upon. 

I invite you to offer your voice in the comments below. Our thoughts are more potent when declared and shared.

Photo by Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

Entering the State of Presence Through Beauty

Light and air are different in Ireland. Shifting clouds and the low angle of the sun against the landscape create an atmosphere filled with magic. On a drive through the far west, Linda and I break over a rise and are caught by a spectacular view where light, air and rugged coast join together to amaze. We stop, wordless, to watch.

The sun’s shallow light illuminates a fog above the whitecaps. As each wave hits the rocks, it throws out a spray that mingles with the mist. For a moment, all the parts cohere. Light and air become one thing moving over the water, absorbing the black rocks and green fields. The light emanates from everywhere with no discernable source. The air breathes, exhaling wet and heavy with each breaking wave. 

I am lost in the scene. I feel expanded, lighter, more real, remembering my place in a larger scheme. Taking in this impossible moment, this extravagant beauty, I am changed.

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Letting Go of Problem-Solving: Lessons From a Slow Lunch in France

Linda and I are vacationing in France. Today, we have driven to L’abbaye de Valmagne to visit the winery and eat at their well-touted restaurant. I use one of the French phrases I have memorized to ask for a table.

“Bonjour. Je voudrais une table pour deux s’il vous plaît.”

“Réservation?” she asks. My heart sinks.

“Non,” I say.

She frowns. In my head, I prepare my argument about how we tried to make a reservation online, but their buggy website didn’t cooperate.

“Let me check,” she says and turns to the only other wait staff, who looks like she might be the owner. The second woman looks around the room and nods at a table along the wall. Relieved, we slide into our chairs and begin what will be a two-hour lunch that initiates a mini-transformation of my approach to time.

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The Divine Human Journey

I think of myself as a spiritual person, but I have many moments when I’m gripped by anger, resentment, irritation or shutdown. Why does this keep happening? Don’t these episodes hold me back from making spiritual progress?

Well, maybe those episodes are the point. Those moments are not to be avoided or suppressed, they are the fertile ground of our growth. Maybe it works like this.

Let’s say the purpose of the human journey is to bring Divine Light into the world of form. We come into the world as sparks of the Divine, fully immersed, wholly connected, with no sense of a separate self. We don’t even know we’re Sacred, we just sense life as pure being.

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There Is No Need to Hurry

I am an impatient person. I jam too much into my day and race to get everything done. This creates stress and lowers both my well-being and my effectiveness. It also makes me crabby. But I can rebalance myself when I pause to remember that my higher self runs at a constant, gentle pace beneath my frenzy.

The higher self runs on its own time. It sets a slower pace, or at least a pace that can handle speed with ease. When inhabiting my higher self, I operate in a natural rhythm that does not seem to move at all. It occupies a stillness that holds the potential for any movement but from a calm center.

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Wise Words – The Only Choice You Have Is to Begin

“The only choice you have is to begin. The only place to start is where you are.”

Seth Godin


Looking through one of my prior journals, I came across this bold statement, a quote from Seth Godin, that struck me enough to write it down. Reading it again causes the same stunning note to ring inside me, speaking directly to my spiritual life.

The first part of the quote is provocative. Is to begin really the only choice? Couldn’t I just as easily choose not to begin, maybe just sit this one out? But no sooner do those words float across my mind than I feel a resounding “No!” coming from my bones. To refuse to begin, to stand at the threshold and reject the invitation, is unthinkable.

And so I take the leap. I make the choice to begin. Begin what? Whatever is before me at this stage of the journey, today and each day forward. The choice

to spend the morning writing,

to sit on this cushion,

to stop and marvel at the colors of the sky,

to open the iron gate that shields my heart,

to feel the buried things I’ve tried so hard to forget,

to start the painful process of forgiving that one person,

to connect to my soul,

to move forward toward whatever is next for me. It is this that I begin.

But how can I begin if I don’t know how it will end, whether it’s too big, too grand, too much, too far? That’s the second part of the quote – the only place to start is where you are. It turns the overwhelm into something simple. The choice to begin doesn’t rest on the promise of an ending. Like everyone who begins, I choose to start not knowing where it goes.

For anything worthwhile, the choice to begin can’t contain the forecast of its full completion because the walking changes both the person walking and the road traveled. To choose something less is playing in your own backyard.

So I choose to begin regardless, starting here, because this is where I happened to be standing when I heard the call.

Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash

Wise Words – Everything Will Be Okay in the End

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon


How does it feel to hear John Lennon’s reassuring words? To think that no matter what is happening around us, whatever chaos or calamity we are facing, things will be okay? I have to admit, when I see the news, I can become quite discouraged. Threats to our safety abound:  war, nuclear threat, authoritarianism, political divisiveness, breakdown in social norms, current and future pandemics, extreme climate events, and governments that seem incapable of intelligent action. The world feels unstable and perhaps even frightening.

And yet John’s words ring true. When I hear them, something in me relaxes and I find myself agreeing, yes, things will be okay in the end. I feel that I can be at peace regardless of what the world throws at me.

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Wise Words – Why We Resist Growth

We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.                                                             

W. H. Auden


Even though I want spiritual growth, I often resist the necessary change that comes with it. The process of growth is a continual shedding of my previous ways of seeing, and that can feel like a kind of death. So I cling to what I know and resist the change that brings the things I say I want.

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