Glimmers

Lessons of Loss, Lessons of Life

Glimmers August 28, 2018

Dear Friends,

 After I offered an update on my 2016-17 writing project, my friend said, “It sounds like the book is writing you.” He was right. Each time I dipped back into the words to rework, edit or add source material, I re-entered sacred space. I returned to a place of waiting and deep listening. I hoped my message was authentic and true, at least from my point of view, and that it might help others. At the same time, the process of writing opened a place of honesty and humility that feels like home.

Thus began my journey back into the Land of Loss. My intention was to describe the landscape of Loss and offer tools to navigate it’s various territories. I knew the Well of Sadness and the demands of Surrender. I had traveled through the agonizing forests of Passage and was painfully familiar with Secret Yearning. But I also knew the Fountain of Hope, it’s waters had soothed my journey and I believed it could offer hope to other travelers in the Land of Loss.

I did not understand, however, the impact that writing a book to help others would have on me. I did not fully appreciate the influence of the writing process on my inner life. Each time I returned to Alone, Passage, Surrender and Changed – the four territories in the Land of Loss – I entered an emotional experience of feeling stranded, of surviving, of letting go, of allowing transformation. My work deepened after each revision, my heart claimed what I was learning.

My personal story is not woven into the body of the book, instead I shared stories of those I worked with at the hospital bereavement program to illustrate how I have come to understand grief. But my story is, of course, the place I return to retrieve wisdom and insight, to find my ground. It is the counterpoint to fellow grievers’ stories, the bereavement research and grief theories that I learned in my work as a chaplain. My story is my teacher. My friend’s suggestion that the book was “writing me” led me to a felt-sense of my own transformation and a return to my soul.

Writing and grieving are similar. They each provide a reliable, yet mysterious, template for movement through the unknown. As a writer, I may have a sense of where I am headed, but at the same time, I remain open to new ideas or shifts that ask a little more of me. Grief, too, offers a path to follow. But if I listen carefully, I might find myself asking questions or facing fears that come forward unexpectedly. While painful, grief guides me through loss toward healing.

Grief is my ally in the ways of Loss, just as writing is my companion in the mystery of Life.

The light that each provides shines just as far as I need to make the journey, one step at a time. My task is to keep going and to trust the great Wisdom that underlies the human story, that holds all of us in the arms of Love.

Peace to you, friends –

Lisa

Summer ponderings…

Glimmers July 23, 2018

Dear Friends,

I’ve been thinking of you.

I miss reaching out from my sacred space on Lake Beseck, to you.  As I write these words, the world around us seems to be moving at a faster pace than I like, not sure about you. I’m grateful for the connection we share…strands of light and energy that intertwine between us…connected in both subtle and obvious ways, we are a community.

My own life is moving a little faster, as well. After the publication of my new book (happy dance here), I began offering programs in a variety of settings. The idea includes selling books, but more. I offer an hour of talking about grief that opens a space for others to be with their losses. That is my goal – to bring grief from the closet (or basement) onto the coffee table…to light a candle of hope as together, we sit around the table and learn.

This summer has been a time of play and respite…floating, writing, swimming, yoga, wine, friends, travel. Hopefully, you’ve had some playtime as well? I’m flying to Seattle, Washington in less than two weeks to attend my 50th high school reunion. I hope to spend time with childhood memories, contemplate the face of Mt Rainier, and laugh with my companions in adolescence.

And you, my brothers and sisters? How is July unfolding in your life? Are you encountering joy? Are you feeling the pressure of responsibility? Is grief, perhaps, reaching out it’s hand to help you through a loss experience? I hope that regardless of what is asking for your attention, you are able to find the resources and friendships that will sustain you along the way.  I hope you’ll look over the listing of my activities for this coming fall, in the meantime let me add one more thought:

“In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each one of us is a gift to those around us, helping each other be who we are.” Anita Moorjani

May we never minimize the place we might hold in another’s story. Without knowing it, we each can bring light into someone else’s day – hope into someone else’s darkness. Each of us share in an evolution of Love that is as present as the raindrops on my window, the wind’s rush through the birch tree, the stillness of a quiet morning. Let our moments of grace join with our moments of connection as we keep hope alive and well…together.

peace to you, Lisa

 

 

 

 

Do you hear Love’s Invitations?

Glimmers July 5, 2018

Dear Friends,Related image

I’ve been thinking about Love, lately.

I see it in the separate moments of my life, like beads on a necklace. Each glimmering sphere a window into Love’s gifts and promises. There are some moments where Love’s presence is palpable…seeing my sons after a long time apart…a selfless act…asking for forgiveness.  They become illuminated, as layers of love encompass them, and create pearls of light on my necklace. Some moments I take for granted, some are surprises. Some are formed through an agonizingly long process of acceptance and surrender…part of my life’s work. Each transforming moment an opportunity to let Love embrace my life.

There are days that I ask myself, how will I welcome this moment before me, this one that is filled with an uncomfortable feeling? How will I care for, listen to, wait with…this occasion of anxiety, conflict or sadness? I’ve been waiting with some moments for a very long time. There is darkness associated with these places, a curling fear that wraps its way into my heart. But even there, in that moment of fear, I wonder…how would it be if I welcomed that moment, that set of images and feelings, with complete confidence in Love’s presence.

I’ve found a new friend who thinks about Love, Ingrid Goff-Maidoff. Ingrid’s love affair with the Divine shines through her poetry and becomes a new starting point for me. Her language and images speak to my heart, perhaps to yours….

The heart knows
the night’s secrets.
The night knows
the heart’s secrets.
How they hold each
other, entwined!
This is one way
I try to describe
these inner
rivers of joy.
Not in exile,
nor in trespass
I’ve wandered
the paths of love.
Now, wherever
I go, I carry
my bundle
of souvenirs.
~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff
Moonlight and Remembrance

Ingrid’s souvenirs, my strand of beads … each a collection of life moments made sacred by Love. Our lives become an opportunity to see what is before us as gifts of light. We gather these pearls of wisdom in our skirts, press our bare feet in the sand, lift our faces into the sunlight…and with the ground of community and a lifetime of experience alongside, we smile and say, “Yes!”

That love is all there is
is all we know of love.
~Emily Dickinson
With a heart full of love for each of you, dear friends,
Lisa

 

 

 

Let Love into the Room

Glimmers June 3, 2018

Dear Friends,

For the past several weeks, I’ve been stepping into new rooms to share my thoughts about grief. Some are filled with books, others are more vacant, all-purpose rooms. Some rooms are set aside to allow quiet reflection… to support the travels of our hearts in the deep waters of loss or faith or wonder. When we come together, regardless of the shape of the room, we create community for a time. We agree to be together, let our souls brush past one another, in shared conversation or in the quiet of prayer. It’s been a gift to me to witness this coming together, this coalescence of hearts. For a time, we share an unspoken agreement to let Love come into the room.

I recently attended a funeral of a dear Sister of Mercy, here in Connecticut. Extended family, childhood friends, colleagues in ministry, Sisters, Associates and others gathered to remember Sr Joan. As I sat with my own feelings and memories, I found the words to describe one of Joan’s many gifts and the theme of this Glimmer…she let Love come into the room. Simply, with both delight and dignity, Sr Joan’s presence opened the windows and doors of wandering hearts…Love appeared in conversation and in silence, in a smile and in a tear. How blessed we were to know such a witness of Love, to receive her affection, to learn from her deep and hope-filled heart.

I grieve her absence. My heart is searching for her as I write these words. And yet, as I prepare for another program on the sacred art of grieving I return to the invitation and intention of coming together in Love. I imagine another circle of faces watching me talk about the pain of loss and the balm of grief, and I’m encouraged to slow down, to share my witness of Love, to make space for others to reconnect with their own experiences of Love. John Welshons said, “To heal our grief, we must know that love is a state of being within us.” He says that when we experience love with another, “what we’re really doing is touching the place within ourselves where we are love.”

So I go forward, in my own way, seeking to let Love into the room…to help heal grieving hearts, to enable community, to honor Joan, and to encourage you to reside in the place within yourself where you are love. Let Love into the room!

Blessings on this new day in June,

Lisa

 

 

 

Spring’s Invitation to Hope

Glimmers May 10, 2018

 

 

“We have no guarantee what will happen in the future, but we have hope. That’s what keeps us going.”

Tweet from the Dalai Lama May 7, 2018

Dear Friends,

A New England Spring is a feast for the senses! The slow greeeeening of the grass, the peeps and chirps that greet the sun, the fresh air with just enough moisture, the tiny little leaves getting a little bit bigger: all a welcome experience and testament to the promise of new life! This particular Spring comes after a prolonged winter; we sometimes wondered if Spring would ever come.

Nature is a great teacher of hope. The seasons do change, the living things follow their “primary directives” of foraging and growing, the sun moves across the sky – day after day. Hope is played out before us, as the dull, brown branches are slowly filled in with shapes and shades of green… once again…year after year.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share a day of reflection with folks carrying a grieving heart. We used Spring’s  unreliable patterns as a metaphor for the uncertainty of grief. We walked the grounds of Mercy by the Sea in a Celtic way of seeing, with a direct “link between the eye and the heart,” and breathed in the new life all around us. We opened ourselves to hope. That is my reminder to you today, friends, the promise of hope. It is steeped in the magic of Springtime, it resides in the skin of a newborn babe, it appears when our eyes open each morning – inviting us into the gifts of this day, of this moment.

This is not to say that pain, frustration, betrayal, and grief do not exist. The Dalai Lama knows this, you know it too. The question is, where do we place our trust? What is the foundation we choose to stand on when living through life’s challenges? Those who face loss are forced to confront this question, which is especially difficult during the tender time of sadness and vulnerability. But it benefits all of us to pause and explore our personal understanding of hope…to imagine it’s texture and shape, it’s depth and resiliency, it’s heritage and it’s legacy.

I close with this message from Rainer Marie Rilke. Let it join your collection of quotes about hope. Let it remind you of the substantial and sustaining qualities of hope that are available to you…now…always.

“Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”

With lots of love from a hopeful heart, Lisa

 

Let Love Heal

Glimmers April 10, 2018

“Grief, our ally and companion, reminds us of a central truth that is hidden in our tears and fears: The one whom we grieve loved us – we are lovable.” Lisa Irish, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss   

 

Dear Friends,

Wet snow is falling upon the purple crocuses surrounded by new green grass and on the tiny red leaf buds on my neighbor’s tree. Spring in New England is like that, we enjoy the promise of new life while the reminders of winter’s cold are still in our midst. A real life example of non-dual, or unitive thinking – we are challenged to live with the both/and of Spring: 60 degrees and sunny one day, then cold, wet snow the next.

I’m coming back to earth following a grace-filled Book Launch for my new book, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss, and now I return to daily tasks of making dinner, working at the computer, and swimming laps at the YMCA. Life carries both joy and sorrow, excitement and mundane, hope and despair. As we move through our lives, we hopefully learn to accept the both/and of our lives instead of avoiding emotional challenges and the pain. We are invited into unitive consciousness, a concept I incorporate into my understanding of grief.

This Glimmer’s opening quote sets the stage…. when we are lost in the emptiness and confusion of loss, filled with anguish and sadness, it’s easy to lose our grounding. It’s easy to focus on the pain and become disconnected with the love. Grief, our trusted resource for navigating the Land of Loss, takes us by the hand, gently but firmly, and helps us return to the center of our hearts. And that, dear friends, is where loss and love co-exist. Our loved one’s legacy is the precious reminder of their love. If we can add the awareness, that we are in fact lovable, to the mix of grief’s emotions; we will find the pathway to the Land of Hope. Each of us, you included, is a reflection of Love in this world. Look in the mirror and know that you are loved and you are lovable!

Blessings on this new and beautiful day!

Lisa

The sweet pain of remembering…

Glimmers March 2, 2018

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, March 1, was my father’s birthday. If he were alive today he would be 93, instead he died at age 36. I lived a full and connected day yesterday, in honor of him. And, I’m coming to realize, because of him. My personal journey of grief through the losses in my early life led me on a path of healing that has brought me to this moment…right now…with each of you in my heart.

The following is an edited excerpt from my new book, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss. It includes one of the many stories I present about folks who sought help with their grief. This one is different, though, because it’s part my story. I share it to illustrate love’s healing presence in our lives, even in times of challenge.

Anne’s father died when she was eleven. Her life changed, as a result, but she found happiness and fulfillment in relationships and career. Anne married and raised a family, gratefully using her father’s name for her first son. Years passed, her children grew up and started their own lives. One cold February, the date of March 1st kept returning to her mind. Anne searched her memory but could not remember the significance of March 1st, so she let the date become a part of her prayer. Anne trusted the arrival of this date in her thoughts and waited to learn its importance. One morning, sitting at her desk at work, Anne was flooded with a depth of sadness that was inescapable…and she remembered. March 1st, this very day, was her father’s birthday. She let the tears fall, breathed through the pressure in her chest and remembered the emptiness. At the same time, Anne experienced a kindling of warmth and tenderness as she remembered love. She gave herself permission to receive this moment, even though it was attached to sadness. She did not dwell on forgetting her father’s birthday, but chose to be grateful for this powerful reminder of love. As the waves of feeling passed through her, Anne stayed aware of the sweet love that touched her little girl heart.

For Anne, this unexpected experience was indeed Love’s reminder. She surrendered to it and focused on the gift of that moment. Perhaps the years between the loss and healing helped, a more recent loss has other elements. Certainly grace appeared on that March day, and shows up in our lives as well. But our attitude toward love and grief is a significant piece in our healing and in our surrendering.   With Surrender’s help, we come to understand that our capacity to love is a part of who we are. It does not die. It is woven through our story, enhanced or inhibited by our unique nature and, ultimately, it is experienced in the present moment. Our relationships, in life and in memories, have gifted us with experiences of love… as long as we live, love lives on in us.

Friends, thank you for being on this road with me. I am so grateful for your interest and engagement in my Glimmers. I hope you’ll look into the book on Amazon  or Barnes and Noble and explore my ideas about conscious grieving. Your well being matters, so keep taking care of yourself! If you’re near by, send me an email – I’d love to see you at our April 8th Book Launch! In the meantime, “This one’s for you, Dad. Your love is still with me, it shines through the confusion of life and lights the path before me.”

with a grateful heart,
Lisa

Own the Light Within You

Glimmers February 6, 2018

 

We must remember that to own the light is not to deny the darkness,

but to allow it to be transformed.” Doris Klein, CSA

Dear Friends,

It’s so easy to sit in the darkness of our own making….

            to “stew,” over and over again, about what didn’t happen

            to replay, with painful detail, what should have happened 

            to fear, a familiar place, that things will never change

The darkness of our wounds, wrongs and worries can wrap us up, hands bound, and deposit us on cold cement steps that go nowhere. And there we sit….sometimes wriggling a hand free to reach out for help, sometimes pulling away the layers of doubt that keep us bound. The darkness waits as we go through the usual routine of stepping over the the remnants of a particular encounter, watches as we try to pack away all the evidence of our deepest feelings, wonders when we will return to the realm of hopelessness. As it happens, the more we deny the darkness of our lives – be it loss, fear, anger, loneliness, shame – the more likely our return to the empty space within.

But there is hope. There is light in the darkness.

Doris Klein’s words are a wise response to normal, human struggles: “We must remember that to own the light is not to deny the darkness, but to allow it to be transformed.”* Ahhhh, a way through…our human journey is not simply choosing good over bad, light over dark. We are called to transformation. We are invited to shine the light of Love, that also lives in our hearts, upon our places of pain. This is not easy, “it takes courage,” she adds, “to be faithful to this transformative process.”*

Where do we find such courage to face the intimate stories of our lives that we keep hidden away? How do we shine Love’s light into the depths of who we are? For me, dear friends, the real question is, how do we not? This one life that we’ve been given is precious. It is filled with potential, like the crocus bulb waiting for winter’s cold to pass. She rests deep within the earth until the warmth of the sun’s light reaches down – coaxing, warming, inviting – until she says yes. We, too, hold much beauty in the depths of who we are. Love’s light is reaching out to us all the time, our task is to open our arms and surrender…to say “yes” to Love and allow it to transform our lives. “As we take the brave steps deeper into our healing, we move into an acceptance that changes us. We live out of our vulnerability and encounter a certain tenderness that becomes our strength. We shift away from control to empowerment, away from isolation into love.”+

Be brave! Let this one precious life of yours become a testament to Love.

peace on this day, Lisa

 

*Doris Klein, CSA, Journey of a Soul, (Franklin, WI: Sheed and Ward, 2000) 112.

+Lisa Irish, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss, (Nashville, TN: Skylight Paths, 2018) 116.

I’ve had an epiphany!

Glimmers January 6, 2018

Dear Friends,

Today is a special day in my world, its the 4th anniversary of  these Glimmers. I took a chance, four years ago, and said “yes” to the idea of sharing my little light with you. I didn’t expect it in the beginning, but as I’ve heard from so many of you over the years, I experienced a precious connection. When we share the gift of hope with one another, hope is enriched, enlivened, expanded. We are encouraged, perhaps, to share our light with others…one to the next…letting hope shine forth in the world around us.

May the enlightenment of Epiphany reach across time and space into our hearts, breaking them open to receive the light we need. May we see our own broken and fearful places as a source of wisdom and wholeness. May we allow Love to heal our hearts, as we share that healing Love with the world. Blessings on this Epiphany of 2018,

I share here the Glimmer from 2014 as an anthem of hope for us all.               

 


I write this message as the sun goes down on January 5th, 2014. The sky is hovering between grey and snowy white as it awaits the deep darkness that will soon come. Snow is all around the house on this cold Connecticut evening, but even the snow will be covered by the blanket of night.

I am in a place of expectant waiting as I think of you, because I know tomorrow is January 6, the Feast of Epiphany. I know the darkness will be pierced by the bright light of the dawn. I know the gift of Epiphany that brings light into our tender souls.

In Christian tradition, Epiphany celebrates the arrival of three kings or wise men to the manger of baby Jesus. This moment brings the birth of Christ to the larger world. Thomas Keating, OCSO, suggests that Epiphany might be called “enlightenment” in other religions. He says,

“Epiphany is the inward realization and consciousness of being identified with who we really are. We are not our false selves or egos. Kiss them goodbye. ….the most important aspect in life is the epiphany or revelation of God that is going on all the time in the details of life.” *

All the time…God is revealed in the faces I see at the grocery store. All the time…God is revealed in my car’s full tank of gas, my husband’s surprise gift on a cold winter day. All the time…God is even revealed in my impatience with a telemarketer, because I’m invited to respond as my best self to this other human being. God is indeed in the details of life as I have the opportunity, again and again, to discover and share Love.

Christmas provides a helpful context so we can see Love being born into our world. On Epiphany, Love breaks through convention and hierarchy. The streams of light brings a king to his knee and elevates the hearts of all who stop to wonder.

Can we pause, look deep within and see the flicker of Love in our hearts? It’s there. It may be wounded or wandering, it may be strong and steady, On this Epiphany, let us embrace the revelation, once again, that we each carry a divine spark. We “house” the Divine in our hearts. Together, let us nurture the light of Love and learn from it. Together, let us open ourselves to the unending source of Love

*Contemplative Outreach News, Vol. 30, Number 1, December 2013

Love to you, Lisa

the Advent of something new…

Glimmers December 4, 2017

The elegant elephant joined the scene today,

her wooden flanks reflected the morning sun.

Yesterday saw the arrival of The Three Graces,

their beauty enhanced by the ease in their bodies.

Each day a new guest: Buddha, a blue heart, a candle…

and so it shall be as this Advent unfolds.

Dear Friends,

I’m trying something new this Advent season. I’m creating my own nativity scene with figures and symbols that are tucked away in our house. The Three Graces is a statue passed on from my mother-in-law, a light is shining through Corinne’s dragonfly candle holder. Each comes to the table to await the birth of Love, each opens my heart in new places as I wait with them.

My intent, as I sit with the scene each morning, is to allow the next choice to emerge from my prayer. I trust the quiet space before me, I’m having “tea with the dawn.”* I resist the voice that tells me I must set up the nativity as I always have. I’m changing and so is my prayer in this holy season of Advent.

Shepherds, sheep, wise men and camels searched for the Light of Christ throughout time. Their journeys to the stable, year after year, showed me the way so that I too can kneel before Love’s arrival. Some came with gifts, all came with wonder, what do I bring on the path to Bethlehem?

My nontraditional nativity allows me to respond to that question with real answers. The carved elephant carries the weight of concerns and fears that I’ve kept to myself. The Three Graces share their loveliness as I wish to share mine, with grace and humility. The Buddha honors the Divine in you and I, while joining in this time of expectation. Each day a new guest will arrive at this crossroads of faith and a new part of my story will open up to the promise of Love being born, once again.

until next time, Lisa

* the image is a gift from Macrina Wiederkehr’s “Prayer of the Teacup”