My heart aches. Oh, it’s been a glorious June in New England, the temperature has warmed up, roses are lush – birds are happy, and so am I. At the same time, my heart aches as I experience the serious divide over human value in our country. I watch a black father playing with his little girl, such love is shared between them, and I pray for his safety. At the same time, I receive an email from a high school classmate that diminishes human beings into a political statement. My heart aches.
Recently, I experienced a lovely memory of my mother….. We are sitting together in her white 57 Plymouth Fury, on either end of a long bench seat. She’s in the driver’s seat, I never question how she manages the gas and brake pedals. Her crutches lay next to her purple, paralyzed legs. Before us, Mt Rainier rises up into the sky. “The Mountain is out,” a familiar phrase in this part of Washington state, means any overcast or cloud cover has eased. Instead, grey, and sometimes, purple ridges build upon one another, snow and shadows shape the familiar spaces in between. We gaze in wonder, as the Mountain speaks her message of presence and wholeness.
Looking back to that time in my childhood – my father dead, my step-father abusive, my crippled mother doing the best she can – these trips were lessons in contemplative practice. I learned the gift of “being” without expectation. When we three – my mom, the Mountain and I – sat together in silence, I learned the beginnings of prayer. My heart shifted into a stillness that transcended thought, even feelings. I didn’t have to “divide the field,” as Richard Rohr describes it. I was exposed to a moment
“where you don’t have to eliminate the negative, but let reality get to you as it is – without judging it, analyzing it, explaining it, critiquing it or even understanding it.”
As I sit here today, grateful for such glimpses of wisdom, I’m also aware of the heartache of loss and uncertainty around me. I’m even more aware of my human experience of fear and doubt, anger and sadness. But as Rohr explains in his wonderful video, “Becoming Stillness,” (click here) we humans always face unresolvable contradictions. The path that I choose at this time of Covid-19 and a call to social justice is the path of paradox. I seek to hold all of it, gently, and also with compassion…for the world, for the broken, for the angry, for the heroic, for myself.
I invite you, friends, to join me at the foot of your own Mt Rainier. Recall, find, or create a space that allows you to let go of control – a space that teaches you the simple lesson of being. These reflective moments may last only a few seconds, but cumulatively they might lead us into awareness. They might comfort and guide us as we balance the heartache of the transformation we’re experiencing with the “softest of mornings,” as Mary Oliver so sweetly teaches,
“No doubt clocks are ticking loudly all over the world. I don’t hear them. The snail’s pale horns extend and wave this way and that as her finger-body shuffles forward, leaving behind the silvery path of her slime. Oh, softest of mornings….how shall I go on, with my introspective and ambitious life?”
Thinking of you with affection, Lisa