Monthly Archives: October 2017

Calling Mom

by Stan Hirst

Oh, hello Mom.  How are you? Is dad still doing fine?

Yes, we’re OK, no colds or ‘flu, that’s always a good sign.

Jody wears the dung’rees you sent, just about worn them through,

Billy’s now playing junior league, he joined the Boy Scouts too.

Oh, Tom’s O.K., working hard, keeping the herd close by.

The crops are in, what there is, prices aren’t too high.

Actually, Mom, that’s why I called. We won’t come by this fall.

Tom’s got a job. Yes, at the mill. Same work he did before.

Rains never came as usual here, things haven’t been that great,

We lost the soy crop on the bench, just couldn’t irrigate.

Extension guy says its all true – our rainfall’s changed for good.

Longer drought spells, lots more dry wells, ain’t doing what they should.

Oh yes Mom, I remember what Dad said back way when,

“In ’32 the rains failed too, the storms showed up and then?”

The extension guy was by last week and had a word with Tom,

Said folks like us had it good, but now we got to change, Mom.

Rains might come, so might droughts, we’ll never know for certain.

Making out that it’ll all pan out is just setting it up for hurtin’.

How is who?  Oh, Maxine Roux. She moved back to the city.

Sold her land to Pete’s Gravel & Sand, I think that’s such a pity.

So that’s my news. Life goes on. Que sera sera.

You told me once that resilience will take a person far

Prairie life’s not easy life, we’ll just keep standing tall.

Got to go now. I’ll call again. Love to Dad and all.

 

 

 

Turning the wheel – reflections on the season

by Jill Schroder

Turning the wheel of the seasons, we soon come to Hallowe’en, full of tricks and treats for some. This time is also widely honoured as Samhain, All Saints Day, and an opportunity to remember the dead, and supposedly a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is thinnest. Acknowledging the seasons and their transition markers helps me to sink into to feeling, to notice the flavours, and take meaning from the moments as they flow by.

Apropos thin veils, the living and dead, here is a provocative article in the Huffington Post: “Are You Living Your Eulogy or Your Resume?” Good question, that! The article is an invitation to explore our priorities and how we spend our minutes, hours and days. At some point we will no longer be living our lives… we’ll be gone. That’s the one sure thing. So now, while we’re still here, still alive, we still have the opportunity to reflect on the question.

Turning the wheel, indeed. A useful way to frame it: am I living my “to do list” – scrambling around hectically and electronically, forgetting to breathe, fitting in one more e-mail, or even signing one more petition for a good cause – before we (actually I, because I’m talking about myself here!) dash off to an activity, or move on to another item on the list. Or am I truly living my life — being here, attending to what nourishes me, ‘taking in the good‘ (as Rick Hanson recommends), tuning in to the larger context, the deeper holding, what’s beyond the body, the personal…

Here’s a short and sweet, helpful and transformative three-part practice I’ve just come across.

  1. Take a few belly breaths. Deep ones.
  2. Let your muscles melt… drop the shoulders, let go of all the contractions. Just do it.
  3. Calm your mind… maybe use a favorite mantra, or whatever helps to create space. Just for a while.

I’ve been amazed at how this seems to literally change the chemistry in my body.

As I get ready to head out on a bike ride, I remind myself to take 20 to 30 seconds to really feel into some of the magical moments in a day: the sound of the burbling fountain near my desk, the colour of the fall leaves, a stranger’s smile, the good feeling after a big workout, a hug from lover or friend or grandchild.

Don’t rush, or even move, on to the next moment, but savour this one, let it resonate. Wow! It feels like all kinds of veils thin when I do this, and I become more alive. Turning the wheel consciously.

May these thoughts help you find your own ways to live your Eulogy, not your Resume. May your days be blessed, rich, full, aware. May we see clearly, look far. Let us help each other find ways to live now as we would like to have done when we’re no longer here!

 

What’s your story?

by Jill Schroder

What if Einstein was wrong? “The world is made up of stories, not atoms.” Poet Muriel Rukeyser once said just this!

So, what’s your story?  Here are a few points to ponder, enjoy, laugh about, and share as we consider stories, their importance, the role they play in our lives, and bring awareness to our personal answer to the question.

In the beginning was Story. The caveman rushed back to his tribe and excitedly acted out his encounter with some Paleolithic beast. This was his story, and forever after he would be remembered by this story. Every story has a sacred dimension, not because of gods, but because a man’s or woman’s sense of self and their world is created through them. These stories orient the life of a people through time and establish the reality of their world. Thus are meaning and purpose given to people’s lives. “Without story we do not exist. “ This is how Catherine Ann Jones introduce her Writing Course The Way of Story.

We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart” writes Pema Chodron

What’s your story about troubles in the world? What about relationships – the difficult ones?   John Hume wrote “Difference is the essence of Humanity.  Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict.  The answer to difference is to respect it.  Therein likes a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt adds “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together, and if we are to live together we have to talk.”

The more we take the welfare of others to heart and work for their benefit, the more benefit we derive for ourselves.  This is a fact that we can see.” Does this story of H.H. XIV Dalai Lama resonate with you?

What about love in our stories?  “No form of love is wrong, so long as it is love, and you yourself honour what you are doing. Love has an extraordinary variety of forms! And that is all that there is in life, it seems to me”  (D.H. Lawrence).

Moving to another dimension, I invite you to consider not only “What’s Your Story”, but also “What world do you want to see?”  Enjoy these images and let them take you on a journey of appreciation and wonder at the miraculous world we are lucky to inhabit.

Of course, there is a realm, a dimension of reality, where all words, let alone stories, drop away and become a limitation on and of the Oneness.  Still, there is much value in considering, enjoying, assessing, and choosing the stories that frame and reframe our lives here on the incredible planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In closing, relish these exhortations from (might you have guessed?) – Mother Teresa!

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual poetry and its roots in Deep Ecology

by Errol McKinstry

Professor Arnie Näess (1912-2009) introduced the term ‘Deep Ecology’ in1972. As a philosopher, activist, and mountaineer he wrote and taught extensively over 37 years about environmental degradation and possible solutions. He stated that

Stewardship of nature is shallow impersonal ecology often in service to capitalist profiteers. Our interference with Nature is arrogant, excessive, causing global loss of biodiversity and habitat. Our solutions are superficial, piece-meal, anthropocentric, perpetuating biblical domination of all life. What is needed is a paradigm shift of consciousness from ego centered identity to eco-philosophy where deeper wider identification with all living beings leads to self-actualization as mature compassionate ‘Ecoselves’ with respect, reverence for all non-human life/eco-systems”.

These ‘living beings’ include not only flora and fauna but also rivers, watersheds, oceans, mountains, and wilderness.

All life has intrinsic worth beyond utilitarian commodity value. As with our pets which we name, clothe, and love, the pain and suffering of other beings should also cause us grief as we share a common home. Millenia of poets and indigenous culture elders, in teaching stories through song, dance, totems, and poetic narratives have celebrated the right of all wise beings to flourish. These truths have much relevance for us in 2017.

My 30 years engagement with the mythopoetic men’s movement as a participant/facilitator was mentored by three wise elders – Bly, Meade, and Hillman. It restored my love of poetry, it is pithy, nourishing imagery echoing life’s agony and ecstasy, woundings and healings. Bly’s gift to me in one retreat was this:

You loved poetry as boys but came to hate it when teachers demanded perfect public recitation before the class; any error in content or performance was shaming. Do read/hear poems again, discern the essence, and share them in your own vernacular voice. Be liberated!”

So, what is a poet? Hafiz (1320-1389), the celebrated Sufi mystic wrote A poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, then raise it to nourish your beautiful parched, holy mouth.” A poet may also express the ineffable, the unsayable, touching deep mysteries of life/death that can inspire us. We can feel nourished, encouraged, emboldened, to persist in our quest/work that is often stressful.

The vast cross-cultural poetry written over millennia (mankind’s legacy) include a few special poems—a unique genre, a deep well, that illustrate Deep Ecology’s values and principles. They reveal our unconscious need as a species to personify ‘Beings‘ in Nature, and then to identify with that ‘Being‘ to broaden and deepen one’s sense of self through dialogue and drama. This is the framework of fairy-tales and mythology (think Zeus, Hades, Hera, Freya). Our separate “I”, our ego-self merges with the `Other’ creating a ‘We’ or expanded eco-self as Naess explains.

Now our concern for the ‘Other’ has shifted dramatically. Now we care deeply for this new composite being’s welfare and destiny. The Other is no longer just a commodity to be cruelly exploited, but part of us – mind, body, and spirit. Now our priorities, values and actions may take a major shift towards compassionate kindness, peace and love – a re-sacralization of the world and our lives.

Beyond traditional church theology, liturgy and catechism is a mystical tradition that values direct experience with the sacred/divine in Nature without ministers and priests as intermediaries. The three Abrahamic monotheistic religions all have their gnostic traditions (Jesus an Essene, Rumi a Sufi). This a rich source of ‘seed’ ‘poems that can spark ‘awakening.’

Critics may exclaim loudly “But this is just new-age psycho-babble, all sound and fury signifying nothing” (to quote Sir Willy), the world is ours to plunder”. To them the deep ecologists say “All new revolutionary ideas are threatening, but in time benefits will accrue and we may save our sacred Mother Earth from our avarice and ignorance”.

Here are some of my favourite examples of Deep Ecology poems. Some have been gently edited for brevity and space. A brief introductory comment is included about the author or salient features.

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain by Li Po (762 A.D.)

“The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away. We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.”

Widening Circles by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

[From ‘The Book of Hours’ pub.1905. Hints at a sacred world with a mysterious centre. Rilke was considered Europe’s Rumi]

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one, but I give my life to it.

I circle around the primordial tower, I’ve been circling for thousands of years, I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?”

When I was the Forest by Meister Eckhart (1260–1328).

[Eckhart was a celebrated Christian mystic and philosopher whose theme seems to dramatize his hope to rediscover the Garden of Eden]

“When I was the stream, the forest, the field; when I was every hoof, foot, fin and wing, even the sky itself—no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, or was there something I needed, for I loved everything. But when I left all we once were, the agony and fear began, questions came and 1 wept tears as never before. So I returned to the river, the mountains asking for their hand in marriage again. I begged to wed every object and creature.”

A Limb ( Branch) Just Moved by Hafiz.

[Hafiz was a Sufi mystic whose name means ‘recite’. He had memorized the Quran and made a living reciting verses at ritual functions]

“You taught Your songs to birds first—why was that? You practiced Your love in the hearts of animals before You created man. I know the planets talk at night and tell secrets about You. A branch just moved before me and the Beauty of this world makes me weep.”

For All by Gary Snyder

[Gary Snyder is a famed contemporary Buddhist monk, deep ecologist poet and activist who, at age 87, still leads the Ring of Bone zendo in California. We met at Hollyhock Farm in a 1989 workshop and earlier in 1973 at an Alan Watts memorial in San Francisco. Turtle Island is a traditional First Nations term for North America]

“Ah to be alive on a September morn, fording a stream barefoot, pants rolled up, holding boots, pack on, sunshine, icy shallows, northern Rockies. Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters, stones underfoot, small and hard as toes, cold nose dripping, singing inside, creek music, heart music, smell of sun on gravel. I pledge allegiance to the soil of Turtle Island, one Eco-system in diversity, under the sun. With Joyful Penetration for all.”

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Frye (1905-2004).

[The only poem she ever published (1932) for a friend’s memorial. It has become famous, set to a lovely melody sung by many western singers and choirs. She comforts her friend by reminding her of their shared experience of Nature’s Beings as ‘I-thou-we” will live on beyond our demise.

“Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.”

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (1935).

[A well-loved contemporary American poet, English professor, and Pulitzer Prize winner who captures our longing for union with ‘the ten thousand things’ (Tao Te Ching) in many of her nature poems. The ‘despair’ she mentions could be our emotional response to ominous climate change facts. She is known for her haiku “Instructions for Living a Life” – “Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.”]

“You do not have to be good or walk on your knees for 100 miles through desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about your despair, I’ll tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on: the sun and clear pebbles of rain move across the landscape, over prairies, deep trees, mountains and rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers herself to your imagination, calling to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over, announcing your place in the family of things.”

Name Give Away by Phil George (Tsimshian 1975).

[A poignant, painful remembrance of residential school days and the importance of his/our birth or initiation name that references ‘beings in nature’.]

“My teacher gave me a new name again. Yesterday it was Peter. Today it was Phillip. Still I don’t know what they mean. She never even had a feast or give away. ‘Two Swans Ascending from Still Waters’ must be a name too hard to remember.'”

In conclusion: you undoubtedly have your own favourite ‘Deep Ecology’, ‘Eco-Self’ poems that inspire and ground you in the Great Inter-connecting Web of all Beings. Do bring or send them to share with the Council, especially one’s you’ve written. Please recommend your favourite poets and books.

 

Rain, restoring rain….

by Lillian Ireland

 

Sunlight, reflecting off the washed wet leaves,
leaves laden with dew and much needed moisture
from yesterday’s rain…

The cloudy, grey smoke covering and coating each cedar branch,
each maple leaf, each blade of grass, each blackberry leaf,
now, clean and green, strangely alive again,
washed afresh by the healing, restoring rain.

The glistening, even on the dead, fallen leaves
given up by summer’s scorching heat
lay scattered on the path
waiting to do their work and give back to the earth.

The path, no longer choking with dust, beckons me somehow
to find my way again, along her meandering turns.

The layered grief of summer’s intense heat
and blanketed smoke from the flagrant, vagrant fires
kept me away…    too long.

Today, I am home again as the sunlight reflects off the leaves
leaves laden with dew and much needed moisture
from yesterday’s rain…

 

 

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