Saturday, February 22, 2014

Flowers Do Listen


March first is the beginning of the Philadelphia Flower Show. I had the opportunity of attending many years ago with a busload of floral designers. In one of the workshops, we studied a spiritual form of Japanese flower-arranging called Ikebana-Sangetsu. I discovered a deeper understanding of the connection between all life.

In our session, the teacher said that flowers could actually talk, that they each have their own way of being beautiful. They have "prana," life force, so you have to pay full attention to them, rather than imposing your own ideas of beauty on them. So after the sessions, I went home to practice and ask the flowers how they wanted to be arranged, what positioning would make them feel most beautiful, and I waited and listened.

Even after the flowers had been set in the vase, I would discover sometimes that in the morning they had rearranged themselves during the night. Even though they were secured in the vase, they always seemed to be minutely straining to find their right place. At the same time, they were not fully independent; they needed loving care. They were dependent on me, or whomever their caretaker was for the day, to water them, to keep them moist.

Sometimes I would watch other people spraying water on the arrangements and I would feel so moved. The droplets left on the green petals and flower buds seemed to be dewdrops of compassion, so delicately poised, touching the source of life, nourishing the heart of beauty.

This experience made me feel how simple it could be, if our minds and hearts are set in the right way, to water not only plants, but human beings -- to treat all living creatures in a way that allows them their right to be beautiful, in their own space and time.

What we came to notice in our session was that flowers could also listen. Our teacher urged us to always remind the flowers when we passed how beautiful they were and to thank them for sharing that beauty with us.

When we did this, when we made our arrangements with this kind of love and devotion, we always found that the flowers remained beautiful and fresh for many more days than expected.

God invites us to listen to his words and what do you hear? “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:12). We can only hope!

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who look forward to spring. Help us to listen to our family and friends as beautiful and allow one another to grow in their space and time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's All About the Shadows

Another day of winter, but worse, another day without the sun. Camera in hand, I’m prodding along in a foot of snow looking for something interesting to shoot. The sun is hidden behind more gray clouds. For a brief moment, the sun peaks out behind the clouds and an amazing thing happens. The shadows begin to dance in the forest.

The sun stays hidden and my toes are getting frostbitten, but I’m looking up into the sky to see if there’s any break in the clouds. The need is for patience, but freezing in the cold and exhausted from walking the trails, I can’t wait to get back indoors. I see another opportunity when the sun will break through the clouds and shine on the snow, but it will last only a few seconds.

We are an impatient people, and I am guilty of moving too fast and not being in the moment. So, I stop for a second and say to myself, I came out here two hours ago to take photos of deer in the snowy woods, but they are hiding. So my next best shot will be the shadows when the sun peaks through. I need to be more patient, look into the sky and notice a patch of blue approaching, I can walk back to a sweet spot in the woods where some nice shadows will appear. I’m breaking through the ice, falling on the slippery hill, but manage to get back to the spot when the sun reappears and I’m ready to focus in on the “dancing shadows.”

It’s not museum quality, but it turns out to be a stunning image of trees dressed in their finest white tails, with the sun piercing down on the forest floor to create a beautiful array of shadows dancing in the trees.

Maybe, it’s only my imagination, or I’m just exhausted from walking in the snow drifts, but I believe we all need a “sacred space” to get away from this noisy world and winter storms to find a place where God invites us to be at peace in our hearts and soul.

God invites us to listen to his words and what do you hear? “O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. (Psalm 43:3).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are feeling exhausted from all the winter storms. Global warming means more severe weather and more storms in life. Protect us from harm and keep our families safe and may we find rest in your gentle light and hidden among the shadows.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Live in the Light

A woman shared that she stopped using heroin four months ago and she wanted to stop all her drug habits. She remembered her grandmother’s saying: “Let your light shine and be happy.” However, abandoned by her mother at eight, she became the caregiver to two younger siblings. Dad was responsible and took care of his children. But when her brother was dying, she called her mother whose reply was that she would not be available to come and see her son before he died. The resentment and coldness of this reply left her empty and bitter.

For more than thirty years she struggled with two addictions: alcohol and drugs. She had them enough under control that she could essentially hide them from her family, friends, and colleagues. She never acted out in very dangerous ways. She was addicted, but still had good control in her life. The problem was that she was living a double life—showing one life to her family and friends and living another life secretly (alcohol, heroin, marijuana) on the side. Her life slowly began to fixate around her addictions—hiding them, lying about her activities, fiercely protecting her privacy, resentment towards anything or anybody who stood between her addictions, and daily anxiety, scheming about where she would go at night. She functioned decently and raised children of her own, but her mind, heart, and real attention were focused on something else, her next hit.

She’s not sure what the exact trigger was since there were a number of things that hit her at a point (her brother’s death, her mother’s lack of compassion, some real shame, some graced moments of clarity when she sensed both her hypocrisy and the dead-end road she was on. She said it was time to turn her life around and she has been clean for four months and she described it that she 'can see the light and color again.' “Nothing feels as great as honesty! I have never been this happy! I'm now living in the light!"

We are called to live in the light. To live in the light means to live in honesty, pure and simple, to be transparent, to not have part of us hidden as a dark secret. We move towards spiritual health precisely by flushing out our sickest secrets and bringing them into the light. Sobriety is more about living in honesty and transparency than it is about living without a certain chemical. It's the hiding of something, the lying, the dishonesty, the deception, the resentment we harbor towards those who stand between us and our addiction, that does the real damage to us and to those we love.

Spiritual health lies in honesty and transparency and so we live in the light when we are willing to lay every part of our lives open to examination by those who need to trust us.
• To live in the light is to be able always to tell our loves ones where we are and what we are doing.
• To live in the light is not have to worry if someone traces what websites we have visited.
• To live in the light is to not be anxious if someone in the family finds our files unlocked.
• To live in the light is to be able to let those we live with listen to what's inside our cell-phones, see what's inside our emails, and know who's on our speed-dial.
• To live in the light is to have a confessor and/or therapist to be able to tell that person what we struggle with, without having to hide anything.
• To live in the light is to live in such a way that, for those who know us, our lives are an open book.

God invites us to listen to his words: “For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, so that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13). 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are living in darkness. Inspire them to seek help and trust that God wants us to be clean and free of all our addictions and “walk before God in the light of life.”