Plucking the Chickens

One of my favourite memories of living in McCord, SK was helping process chickens in July. I was thinking of this alot this past week as I have been intentionally reflecting many experiences I have had in the past five years.  I find that having an experience – concrete, or emotional, in person or as a result of reading a book or watching a movie – is kind of like eating meat.   P1000732

You don’t kill a chicken then swallow it whole; you process it.  You kill and bleed, pluck and clean it, (even the pin feathers) prepare and cook it, then you chew it and swallow – or else you could get very sick or choke on it.  Same thing with experiences; whether light and fun, or on which has taken heart-and soul-energy, unless the experience is “processed”, I can get very sick.  (Some people take, or want to take, their own life because they were unable to process a memory enough, or get rid of the pain from it.)  I don’t want to get sick because I haven’t taken the time, or the energy, to process and chew on these many experiences (even the good ones, which are by far the majority).  On sabbatical, now I have both.

 

There’s a story about a man who, returning to his ancestral home, found himself processing some of his memories; some good, others not so good, some of how he betrayed family, others of times he had been hurt by them.  One night he found himself wrestling with them. He tossed and turned so much, it was as if he were wrestling with a man. Just before dawn he pinned his adversary to the ground, and demanded that he be given a blessing before he let go.  When the man got up in the morning, even knowing he had been blessed by the Holy One, he found he was tired from the wrestling, and that his hip had been injured in the process; in fact, he limped for the rest of his life.  (You may know the story as “Jacob wrestles an Angel” or “When Jacob became Israel”.)  That’s what happens when we process memories; we wrestle them – even the good ones – until we receive their blessing for us.  We are touched by the Sacredness of Life, and are forever changed by the process.

Writing is one of the ways that I review and pluck and clean an experience; sharing this blog is one way that I chew and swallow them.  So thank you for sharing with me this process (that sometimes feels alot like “Chicken Day”).   I may not need to share the “what”, focusing instead on the goodness, the challenges and learnings, the growth, the sacredness, with which I have been blessed as a result of the wrestling and processing.

And blessed I have been, in abundance, and changed.  I still have more questions than answers from them. So please, leave comments and your answers to questions that remain.  Then you can be my angel, and I will continue to be blessed with learning and growth, and sacredness.

Ruminate, Recalibrate, Renew

compass wendybattino comI know I’m not the only one, but I have times when a day is so “busy” I can hardly remember what I’ve done in it, which end is up; times when I wish I slow down the pace of life so I can take a deep breath and take stock.  Sometimes I wish I had the time and the energy – at the same time – just to chew on an idea that’s been floating in and out of consciousness.  I want to step out of “regular time” with all that “has to be done” and be in a different kind of time,  in which I can just Be.

I do have those moments – when I remember to make time for them, when I am willing to let go of what I have become convinced are “have-to-dos”.  They give me a sense of connection to all that is; touch the infinite.  In these moments everything is whole and balanced, (sometimes it’s called ‘kairos’ time)*.  You probably have them too.  That quiet of the very early morning, sitting at night watching the stars, a child sleeping.  It’s that moment at the end of yoga, the ‘resting’ pose.  In kairos time, I remember, as a colleague once put it, that I am “a  human Being, not a human Doing”.

Lots of images: compasses need to be re-calibrated to True North. Wilderness time to let go of distractions that hold one captive. Leaving a field fallow to give the land a chance to renew.  Making Sabbath – a time to “do no work” – those chores that lead us into that go-go-go pace – and reorient to the vision of how the world could be if Compassion was our guiding principle for our actions.  Steeping oneself in Living Water, being nourished by Bread of Life.  A time to understand the holy message: Do not fear.

So this leave I am on is your gift to me of time away from “regular duties”.  It am offered the freedom to make space for this kairos time.  It’ll be like slowing down the merry-go-round – not because the ride isn’t enjoyable, but to see who else is on it, explore what other features there are, be fascinated by the tune of the calliope. A time to reboot, to nourish my spirit, mind and body which (like most other people) the run-of-life interferes with.

The “plan” is to ruminate on ideas I’ve only had a chance to skim; literally to chew on ideas that are trying to germinate.  To renew some disciplines in order to harness my energy differently so I can use it more effectively in my service here. To clear out some of the physical and internal detritus that makes me feel separated from the Holy, that inhibits me (or at least makes me unsure and unsteady) “shining my little light” in a good way. To recalibrate to my call of being here.

You folks of Cornerstone have given me this gift of sabbatical time; I do not take lightly.  I am profoundly grateful for this time to renew, to reboot, and be ready to come back to the work that I am called here to do.  Thank you.

~ ~ ~

*Mckinely Valentine has a great blog on “Kairos time”, which she describes as “the moment  after you’ve inhaled and are just about to exhale”; check it out mckinleyvalentine.com/kairos

** Image from: wendybattino.com

 

 

Draw the Circle Wider

When I started this blog, my aim was to share experiences I’d had of encountering “the holy”, sacred moments that have I noticed during just regular day-to-day living.vigil  Easy work when we look at nature, or when groups of people have responded spontaneously with great compassion and kindness to a disaster.
But this week, the place I’ve encountered a holy presence the most has been in seeing the tenacity of people to stand up in favour of right relationships, in solidarity with those who are feeling overwhelmed, really trying to come together and see people as being of equal value.  And in making a stand – one more time – against action and beliefs that try to pull us apart from one another.

Example: I, like many others, was profoundly sad at the mass shooting at the university-of-toronto-quebec-mosque-vigilmosque in Ste-Foy QC; not only that it happened while people were at prayer but that it happened at all.  But with increasing rhetoric of superiority and fear-mongering I wasn’t surprised. (So much for needing other people to ‘pass a test on Canadian values’…). Where I experienced holiness was in the reactions and gatherings of thousands of people across the country – including in Manitoba – in support of this hurting community.  Just “regular Canadians” standing up with a hurting community and saying “this kind of hate is not ok!”

Example: the march for human rights, in Winnipeg. Not just supporting them but restating that our strength in Canada comes from the work (and, I daresay, love of participants-at-saturday-s-walk-wfpneighbour) it takes to respect the variety of gift of differences in ethnicity and cultural heritages, of religious expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, political viewpoints, and even levels of humour.  (The humour and ‘lightness’ of Groundhog Day reports helped me to stay balanced, reminding me that the heaviness of everything else isn’t the only thing happening in the world.)

Example: the social media campaigns #dress like a woman and #deleteUber

Example: people putting aside their sense of personal hurt to share the hurt of a grieving family.

If I had only one sentence to describe where and how I experienced holiness this week, it would be “the tenacity for respect and the resiliency it brings”.

These are concrete actions of hope. When we respect, we acknowledge the other’s value as a ‘neighbour’, a ‘child of God’.  We make time and spaces to hear their pain and fear and hope. As we hear one another, we learn from each other, and we build a society that is truly more inclusive.  We make the Circle wider.

When we are tenacious to the hope that our society is one where justice (being in relationships of balanced power) flows like a might river, and righteousness (right action towards each other) like an ever-flowing stream, we experience ‘being a holy community’, and God-is-among-us. (Not an original thought; it’s from the Hebrew prophet, Amos.)  We build each other up after the hurt to be whole, to be better, together. We make the Circle wider.

(Thanks to Gordon Light/Common Cup Company for the title – great song! and to cbcnews.ca for the pix, accessed GoogleImages Feb 4/17)

Alternative Facts?

I’ve been part of many conversations this week that were commenting on (ok, mostly ridiculing) the idea of “alternative facts”.  Yes, it does sound like Orwell-speak.  But I’ve been thinking….I wonder if there isn’t  a case to be made for alternative facts?

Case in point: my friend and I were discussing someone we both know.  You wouldn’t know from our independent “facts” that we were describing the same human being. My experience and his experience of this person were as different as chalk and cheese.   Were my “facts” – my own experience – of this person any less true than my friend’s?  Did we have alternative facts about the same person?

What about on a macro-level?  Are my “facts” about (for example) the current Israeli government’s treatment of people in Gaza – gathered from the information I research, the agencies I support, experiences I have, the concerns that I hold – any less true than my Jewish friend’s “facts” (from the same kinds of sources and her fear of anti-Jewish sentiment increasing in Canada (I agree with her on that….)? Are these not “alternative facts”?

Facts are information accepted as informed by our perspective.  And what we value.  And what kind of world we want to help build.

I’m talking about alternative facts – based on evidence and experience, not rumor and assertion; not based on something made up with hopes that the louder they are proclaimed the truer they will get. (Sad but true, even legitimate media are slipping into the same muck as the self-determining media wannabes, spreading “we think” as fact.)

But back to the point: information comes at us from so many directions, how do we know what’s true?  Facts we rely on is the information we take in, subjected to critical thinking,  vetted by the questions we ask, the values we hold, and the kind of world we want to help build.  What are the questions you ask?  What informs your values?

My values are informed by my faith: that Life will be Abundant for all people only when we see one another (every ethnicity and cultural heritage, gender expression, religious expression, political persuasion) as a sister or a brother; that peace does not come through intimidation but by wanting for the next person the same as I want for my self; that justice is not a synonym for revenge but a path to restoring relationships to a place of balance; that reconciliation isn’t a politically-correct slogan, but a willingnthe-very-powerful-dr-who-4-2ndess to shape, and be shaped by, one another so we are both the best we can be.  In the end, I accept as my “alternative facts” that for which the “bottom line for me and mine” isn’t the only criteria for making decisions.

And, with respect to The 4th Doctor*, I don’t believe truth and fact are the same.  Facts are information. Truth brings Life for everyone, everywhere; that’s what makes it Holy, that’s what draws us together.  That’s what will set us free.

 

A Moment of Connection

I’ve found myself with a lump in my throat so many times this week: the sun on the snow…the deep Crayola blue of the sky…this cold…the sun dogs…the moon dogs…One evening 6 deer were walking down the street towards me; I was so taken aback I turned off the car so they wouldn’t get spooked. They passed by slowly, looking in the windows and sniffing the tyres; their look reminded me of a group of young teens – curious and dismissive all at the same time. Then off they wandered in search of a place to sleep or food, with a “whatever” in their smooth gait.  (I know there’s more than one viewpoint on deer in town, but I still had a moment of profound connection.)

A few minutes later, I was out of town, just as sunset happened. Words don’t do it justice. But I might describe it as a layered-jellied-salad – colours distinct but fusing, vibrantly other-worldly, topped off with jet black silouettes of trees and bins and pump jacks. I couldn’t drive, so I pulled over and sat gob-smacked by its intensity and beauty.  I tried taking a picture…but you know how it is: holy moments just can’t be captured.

I’ve been reading the next section of Immortal Diamond by Fr. Richard Rohr this week and was reminded that the work of soul-tending is to come to know oneself as part of the whole, not separate from the land and the wildlife, nor separate from the holy which infuses it all. (What we could learn of the holy from a poem that begins “When God was a deer….”)

Soul-tending requires intentionality. But I wonder if that sometimes is simply allowing oneself to be so “taken up”, so connected, with a moment that the illusion of differentiation between “me” and “the moment” is erased?  Being turned aside from the mundane to see the holy in the ordinary? (My spiritual tradition tell a story of Moses who was out just being a herder, when a bush catches his eye. He stops, turns aside and hears a voice: take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.)  Does soul-tending happen when we allow ourselves to look beyond the blinkers of just-getting’-it-done?

There was a picture that caught my eye, connectionthat felt to me like a great illustration of this kind of holy moment. The light from above expands and the light from below expands, and where they meet is an elan, a point of light in the canvas (or in history) that is so vibrant with life, the point disappears.  It’s so infused with the Holiness that it becomes a sacrifice; it’s no longer a separate entity, it’s disintegrated but in a way that makes it that makes it so much more.

How have you felt that moment of connection between the power of Life Within with the Power of Life that is beyond “you”? Has it felt like a moment of disintegration of separateness? How did you respond?

12 Days to Wonder

This time of year is so spiritually full for me, I want to burst.  The time of the Longest Night at Solstice, literally watching the sunlight come back…the lights of Christmas…the laughter of feasting and the silence of the winter nights. Sacred Time.12-days-aliexpress-com

And of course those aren’t one-off days. The ubiquitous 12 Days…from Solstice to Hogmanay, from Christmas Dec 25 to the Epiphany (or the Visit of the Magi, or “Little” Christmas) Jan 6th.  Days of feasting and friends. Days of looking back over the year – was I the person I wanted to be? do the things I wanted to do? And looking forward into resolving something for the coming year.

And its made possible because of the beauty of Deep Winter. This week was a perfect example of it. That latest blizzard, sidetracking so many plans, brought Awe.  Watching the snow come down, and blow furiously, I mellowed into a deep gratitude.  The plans were shot so it became a “free day”.  I got to really look at the beauty of the snow, and the power of the Wind. And be in awe of the amount of snow (even when I was shoveling it). I was taken aback, brought to tears blowing-snow-janicelukes-caeven, by the sheer magnificence of snow blowing across the 256.  The power, the beauty of the muted colours, birthed in me such a sense of wonder and awe, connecting in my heart to others who have walked this land: how did Indigenous people endured prairie winters without the benefit of coal, oil or gas? and what depth of perseverance of the early European settlers to stay.

That pull-you-back-to-reality kind of humility reconnects me to the rhythms of growth, rest & renewal, and new beginnings.  It seems that it is mostly when I am confronted by the “you’re-not-in-control” weather, and in the starkness of the season, that I am overwhelmed by the Power that sustains all of Life.  The Sacred Mystery that holds us all together, that has been there in the past, and will be in the future, but mostly is known in “the Now”, seems just that much closer.

A gift, for me, of the starkness of the landscape is to be reminded not to be sidetracked by the pizzazz around me. It’s really easy for me to get sidetracked by colours, food, busy-ness and the TV-marathons of the season.   Instead the bare trees invite me to spend time this week sitting in the relative darkness, watch the lights and candles, the small fragile lights straining against the darkness that threatens to overtake them, yet lighting up the room. The starkness invites me to see the gift of looking at my life stripped down with honesty: who was I this year? what am I grateful for? what do I wish I had done differently? what gifts did I receive from the mistakes I made, and the not-so-smooth parts of my life? And to look forward to a new year, with it’s 2nd (or 3rd or 116th) chances to begin again, to be the person that is at the core of me, to live connected to the deepest yearning of my heart and the Mystery of Life that sustains it.

The gift of time to look back and be grateful, look forward with hope. And just be here Now in this Sacred Time, for 12 whole days.

Is there a difference between thanks-giving and gratitude?

cornucopia-timeanddate-comI used to think of Thanksgiving weekend as a time of celebration and joy.  It’s a time for delighting in a good harvest of field and garden, of smiling at memories made this summer, the renewal we received when we were away from regular schedules and obligations.  And now we have all the joys of fall: vibrant colours, and crisp apples, and the smell of wool sweaters coming out of storage.

It’s important to take the time to stop and be intentional about noticing all that we have.  Whether we say a formal grace over the feast, or ask those around the table to share what they are thankful for, it’s good to recognize the gifts that we have in our life.  And when we’re given a gift it’s only polite to say thank you.

But I’m finding giving thanks isn’t enough anymore.  Because when I am honest, and realize just how many people contributed, for example, to my meals, I am overwhelmed.  There must be thousands of people bringing it from field to table — farm workers, truck mechanics, the Dakota people who agreed to share this land with us, the workers at the canning factory, the people who made my stove…. And even that things grow from the earth; it’s amazing to realize how the tomatoes grew in my garden when it was clearly with no help from me whatsoever.  I am humbled by it and wonder how I could ever have thought that all this was by my own work alone – or that it belongs only to me?

I don’t feel badly or guilty about “all that I have”, but I find that thanks-giving isn’t enough; what is emerging is a sense of gratitude.

Gratitude comes from that humility of seeing I’m not as independent as I think; it pulls me into to seeing just how interdependent I am with the whole web of Creation.   Gratitude makes me see Life as a gift. It opens my heart, and then prompts me into action.

So when I am supporting the local Food Banks, and asking “why is there still a need for these in Canada?”,  it’s not because I’m a “good” or even “generous” person; it’s because my spiritual well-being depends on it.

Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Woman from the Murri people of Australia, once said:  “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Gratitude feels like it recognizes that interdependence, and comespinterest from a place deeper in the soul. I hope you take time this Thanksgiving season to stop and notice what you have
. And how you come to have it. And that your thanks that blossoms into gratitude.  It’s an amazing experience of blessing.

Thanks to: Meister Ekhart for the quote, pinterest.com and timeanddate.com for the photos.