May 7, 2020
This morning I opened my calendar and noticed that today is the National Day of Prayer.
Prayer represents something different for all of us, doesn’t it? I am aware of how my own perspective of prayer has changed– along with all aspects of my life– as I have grown and allowed my curiosities and questions to guide and teach me. When I listen to some people talk about their experience, it seems that prayer is a wild craving; at other times, an expression of peaceful satisfaction. And, for various and good reasons, not everyone has a practice of prayer yet would describe themselves as spiritual. We are wonderfully unique, and what serves some does not serve others. For some of us, the idea or practice of prayer is attached to very painful or traumatic experiences. When this happens, prayer may no longer feel like a safe place, or like something that makes sense anymore. The process of learning how to pray for one’s self can be very healing; the process of letting go of practices like prayer and being spiritually free in a new way is how healing happens for others. Whatever your opinion or relationship to prayer and other spiritual matters may be, I hope it empowers you to be good to yourself and others. I hope you feel validated and confident in your footing, even if your beliefs and practices do not look like everyone else’s. Your uniqueness is something the rest of us need, and I thank you for every way that you offer your unique goodness to the world.
Though absolutely not required, the process of counseling can easily be integrated with whatever your spiritual perspective or practice may be. It is one way that some people choose to bring their whole self to the therapeutic experience. Counseling can also be a safe place to heal from spiritual injury and grief, and to redirect your path. Whomever you are and no matter your spiritual perspective, you deserve to be met with compassion, respect, and acceptance. I extend this hope to you: May today find you holding some contentment, a robust amount of curiosity, and the knowing that someone out there is sending love and care your way.
Below are a few personal musings about prayer, followed by a poem by the magical Mary Oliver.
Perhaps prayer is…
…an expression of gratitude, or a way of transforming our longing from the state of invisible quietude to something nearly tangible, almost like a sculpture of thanks and desire.
…a form of connection into a fuller sense of who we are, and to whatever lies beyond us.
…a way of being honest with ourselves– about what we feel, need, or want and do not know how to express in any other way.
…a way of helping something deep within us set our coordinates and sense of direction.
…a gate to release what has been contained and deserves to be set free.
…a vessel to hold what is precious and maybe even fragile.
For those who are drawn to prayer…
If the contents of your heart feel unlanguageable, and there are no words that could possibly express what you know and feel inside… Pray your silence.
If you are full of words and stormy emotions that feel confused and directionless… Pray your chaos.
If you do not hear words but feel energy surging and swirling inside you… Pray with your body.
If you feel the instinct to slow, to stop, and this somehow communicates something on your behalf… Pray with your stillness.
“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver (A Thousand Mornings)
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.
April 16, 2020
Hello…today I am thinking about beginnings. Perhaps because it is morning, the start of a new day– an entire pile of hours that have never been before. Or perhaps it is because I recently began this blog…again. It is a fresh start to an old idea– and I see a few things that fit that description in my life right now. Can you relate? Do you ever feel like you are again taking the first steps into an old effort– something that you’ve tried (and tried) to accomplish but could not tell if the ground beneath you was gained or lost? I have. I know this experience is not unique to me– many of us often circle back through goals, dreams, or needs that are waiting to be moved forward and will not let us go until we give them the attention deserved.
If this feels familiar to you, then let’s agree on something. Let’s agree to start at this old place in a new effort with a spirit of compassion. Let’s bring gratitude for the opportunity to begin again, not punitive memories and shaming messages about old failure.
We are still becoming who we are, and we have learned from what we’ve tried before. Why not honor those lessons and put them to work for us, so that we can be open to learning what’s in store for this new beginning. Let’s free ourselves from being narrowly and fearfully attached to demanding outcomes, and instead be patient with ourselves and present with the process so that we can see and receive what may unexpectedly arise to bless and empower us. I am in the mood to fill my hands and heart with hope and courage, regardless if this re-start goes in the directions that are most familiar or ends “perfectly”.
With Covid-19 ruling our time and territories these days, it may seem like an odd or insensitive time to talk about beginnings. I assure you I am not ignoring the reality of the Coronavirus situation and how it seems to be holding the world hostage and immobile. Daily I am stilled and stirred by the stories of desperation, death, and of people rising to offer help as best they can. I also know that the tides of suffering will relent, healing will surge around the globe, and all of us, in our own ways, will be facing the task of beginning again. Beginning from a place of grief with a sense of self that feels weak and wobbly. Gingerly stepping into what many are already calling a ‘new normal’ and trying to figure out what it means for living. Deciding where we can restart old rhythms while bravely creating new ones.
I already feel the energy of a collective new beginning seeping in. We do not know exactly when things will shift, but it is ok to begin dreaming now of beginnings ahead. It is ok to hold compassionate space for today’s suffering even while we allow our imaginations and creativity to stir toward what we can restart when the time is right.
Sometimes remembering that there are beginnings ahead of us can offer light and a place to hold on to when we feel we are in the chaotic energy of darkness and pain.
If you are unsure how or where to begin a new path in your life, consider counseling. It is a powerful way to understand yourself more deeply, and to find what you already know about gaining ground where you need, want, and deserve it most. I have current availability via telehealth care and I would love to hear your story.
April 9, 2020
I grew up in the middle of a prairie but spent much of my childhood in green hills that held a lake. Atop one hill lived a little yellow cabin, and in that cabin we made food and fires and nearly 40 years of memories. We would walk a stone path down the hill to the water’s edge and to large docks that were tethered to shore by cables and long arms of steel and concrete. The lake rolled beneath the docks and yet even the chaotic tides of angry storms could not dislocate the structures from shore.
Recent years have brought unprecedented rains to the area and as the lake swelled over the shoreline and crawled uphill, the docks, flexing like giant metal muscles or enormous silvery jellyfish, rose with the lake level and buoyed faithfully on the flood water. They were of course not without serious damage from the excessive rain and flood, but the docks stayed afloat and alive. However, the pipe and plank pathways that bridged the water from shore to door and the cables and strong arms that anchored each dock in place disappeared beneath the gray lake. It appeared as if the docks simply sat in place by will alone and with no support.
As I sat on my porch this morning I thought about how that image of the flooded lake tells a story of gratitude and loss. I am learning that one of my deepest resources in a season of grief and loss is gratitude. Gratitude for even simple sources of love during a season of separation and deep homesickness. Gratitude for the sturdiness of the earth beneath my bare feet when the path forward seems flimsy and unsure. Gratitude for how I can still fill my body with breath, even when sadness has stolen all the air from the room. These small moments tether me to myself, and to any sense of peace that may be hiding in me and is waiting to be found. Simple acts of gratitude are like those cable and strong arms of the dock, keeping me rooted to the invisible earth when the floodwaters of grief threaten to dislodge and dislocate me. I may appear to be aimlessly atop the water, afloat and damaged from the storm. But if I am able and willing to remember the things in my life that I can be grateful for and to reach for them, I am reminded that in the shadowy, watery depths, I am still secure and not adrift. I am supported. Like steel lines that root into a shoreline, gratitude helps me root into my sense of place, my sense of self, and my deeper sense of well-being. Gratitude does not resolve my hard emotions during seasons of loss, but it helps me tap into a sense of strength and stillness that allow me to be present with my grief in ways that move me forward into healing.
I realize gratitude in a time of crisis like the current Coronavirus pandemic can feel like a much harder and more complicated reach. We are not all experiencing the impacts of Covid-19 in the same way, but there is a clear sense of shared trauma and need for hope. I am not trying to minimize any experience or devastation, or offer naive solutions to global grief and heartbreak. I simply encourage anyone to just try, in any amount, to gaze in the direction of gratitude and find out what goodness can be seen, felt, and absorbed right where they are today.
Right now I feel grateful for…..
The sound of the rain in the evening. We are being watered.
The sight of the ripening green and spring colors following the death and cold of winter. We are still growing and will ripen to more vibrant life, even during this season of loss.
The sight and sounds of any neighbors, as they try to do their best in a season of being home-bound. We are in the presence of others even from a distance, and our presence is an offering to them.
The stories of people helping and being helped. We are a part of that human family, in all its tragedy and beauty.
What are you grateful for today?
Who or what are your connections and support– the things that remind you that you are not alone and adrift?
Consider keeping a jar or vase nearby, and when you recognize something you are thankful or grateful for, write it on a slip of paper and drop it in. It can be a fun and simple source of encouragement later to read those when you need to be reminded of experiences of goodness and gratitude.
Would you like to talk about anything that is happening in your life? Please do not hesitate to be in touch.