Dear readers and friends –

While I’ve been caught up in work and the busyness of life these past six months, I’ve also been reading, writing, and contemplating the commitments I want to make to #Signs of Love in 2020. But in the meantime I have some good news for you – another Kirkpatrick is finding the time to wander and write, read and meditate, AND he is writing a blog about it!

In the spring of this year, my son Finn got some tough news.  He wasn’t accepted to the university he had expected to transfer to this past fall. We didn’t think his expectation was unreasonable since he had been admitted to the school as a freshman and had completed all the requirements. He had improved as a student and photographer over those two years; he knew himself to be ten times the candidate at 20 than he was at 18. After appealing the decision, the university revealed that they took only 10% of the transfer students who applied. While it didn’t change the circumstances, it took the edge off the decision.

Though it hurt, Finn took the disruption in stride and got busy planning his unintended year off from school. (He was finally getting that gap year he wanted at 18.) He worked hard, saved his money, and dreamt big. In August he backpacked the John Muir Trail, over 200 miles from the Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in North America. Carrying everything he needed for three weeks on the trail, he his food was resupplied by his grandad at point and a pack mule at another. He lived on a consistent diet of tuna fish, protein powder and power bars, rice, dried mashed potatoes and leftovers from buddies on the trail. He lost ten pounds and gained a new perspective on life. He took thousands of photographs, which you can check out here.

After a quick month at home, he left in October for a two-month adventure in Europe with one of his oldest friends. He and Ben have known each other since preschool and share a similar desire to cultivate their own way of being in the world. As far as I can tell, they spend their days in museums and parks, walking the streets of cities most of us will never visit. They read and write, meditate and meet people. I am sure they also spend plenty of time drinking in pubs (Dublin) and dancing in nightclubs (Spain). And along the way Finn has found that he likes to share his thoughts almost as much as his photographs.

So with his permission, I am sharing his most recent post here on #Signs of Love, but you can always check it out on his website, www.FinnKirkpatrick.com. Enjoy!

A New Earth, The Alchemist and the Little Things

Or, since he’s writing from Spain,

“Una Nueva Tierra, El Alquimista y las Pequeñas Cosas”

 

“I’m back! I apologize to all my loyal followers, all twelve of you, you’ve probably been wondering what’s been going on. I just got a little caught up in life and all the traveling.

3 week recap:

  • Spent the end of Oct- beginning of Nov. in Bergen, Norway
  • Did some incredible hiking, ate some delicious pastries, and froze my Southern Califronian butt off
  • Headed south to the warm coastal climate of Barcelona, Spain
  • Capitalized on fresh fruits and juices, the ocean, and conversations with the city’s characters
  • Took a bus to Madrid, where I spent a few days exploring the city’s massive parks, world class museums, and ate loads of jamon iberico
  • Took a bus to Bilbao, where I am currently visiting some friends, enjoying their toddler’s energy, and planning on getting a surf in tomorrow (20ft swell forecast!)

I recently watched a photography documentary called “Everybody Street,” which is about some of the most famous street photographers and their photos, style, and method of shooting street. This type of photography has a very authentic and documentarian feel, with lots of cultural commentary woven in. The differentiating variable in the photographers’ style was whether or not they interacted with their subjects. Some felt that in order to capture a moment, in its purest form, they could not intervene, while others felt it was not appropriate to capture someone’s image without their knowledge. This is something I have gone back and forth on throughout the trip. When shooting, I don’t normally ask permission, because if you don’t act on impulse, the moment you want to capture is gone. When you are behind the camera, you feel as if you are an observer of the whole, not a part of it. This can be comforting if you think there is some insanity with all the peoples’ vanity, phone usage, and way of life. And I’m sure they think I’m insane walking around taking photos of them. However, a camera is also an incredible tool that can allow you to meet strangers, and I have had some life-changing conversations when I interact with my subjects. One afternoon in Barcelona, I approached a man in authentic African attire and asked if I could take his photo. I ended up sitting on the bench next to him for two and a half hours, and left wiser man. Since then have been trying to approach more people, however, the language barrier has made having in-depth conversations difficult.

Early this week, I finished A New Earth and listened to The Alchemist on tape twice. The last half of A New Earth was equally as inspiring as the first half. The Alchemist has been and will continue to be one of my favorite books ever. I’ve chosen to write on the part where they seamlessly overlapped as I read one and listened to the other. Both authors talk about the little things and their ability to bring great joy into our lives. I’ve been aware of this phenomenon since I was introduced to Mary Oliver’s poem “Mindfulness” a couple years ago. An excerpt from the poem…

Everyday

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light.

The practice of finding a few things every day that “kill me with delight” has helped me create stillness in my life. In A New Earth, Tolle talks in depth about our inner space, or the part of us that exists outside of form. He says, “The thing or event is so subtle, so unobtrusive, that it takes up only a small part of your consciousness- and the rest is inner space, consciousness itself unobstructed by form… In other words, the form of little things leaves room for inner space.” I now notice in myself, that when walking around, if I can enjoy the little things, I am filled with that inner space and a feeling of gratitude. In The Alchemist the boy is told, “You don’t have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.” A simple grain of sand, the finer details of a leaf, a child’s laugh, the wind blowing through the trees, and so on, can leave you in awe when you’re able to appreciate them as they are, simply contemplating their beauty.

I’ve had a few profound moments over the last year where I feel incredibly content, complete, and connected. I now understand those moments occurred when I was fully present, not lost in any thoughts about what could be different. In fact I wasn’t even thinking of me or my own life, I was simply a part of life as a whole. I had one of those moments in El Retiro park in Madrid a few days ago, and it dawned upon me that these magical moments were not rare. It’s all one neverending moment, the eternal “now,” and it is always accessible to you, as long as “you” or your life isn’t the priority. It’s quite hard to stay in that moment, but I am trying, and using the little things to bring me back when my monkey mind wanders off.

TGIF !

T– This week I have been filling out college apps for next fall. Although this is my third time going through the process, it’s always a little stressful. I am trusting that it’ll all work out and I’ll get in somewhere, but if I don’t… that means I can probably travel some more, so it’ll work out regardless.

G– I am grateful for the convenience of traveling. The “Hero’s Journey” is as old as time and is a very common theme in literature, movies, paintings, and other mediums. For years, the youth would set out to discover their life’s purpose, follow their dreams, or slay metaphorical dragons, and would not return. Many characters in my novels, like Siddartha, Santiago, and Parsifal, said goodbye to their families forever. So I am grateful that I can take my own journey and at the end of the day return to the warm embrace of those I know and love.

I– I was inspired this week by a quote from Jim Carrey. When I asked for the things that inspired all of you last blog, my dear friend Matt Maude, that loud london local I mentioned earlier, gave me this one from the Netflix documentary “Jim & Andy.” In the doc, Carrey says

 At some point when you create yourself to make it, you’re going to have to either let that creation go and take a chance on being loved or hated for who you really are, or you’re going to have to kill who you really are and fall into your grave grasping a character you never were.” 

 

Wow. What a call out. It reminds me of when Emerson makes the bold claim: “Imitation is suicide.” So on this journey, I’ve been trying to answer the question of “Who am I?” and I’ve been inspired by these men to not really worry about it, and just be and do whatever comes to me.

F– My fun for the week has been playing with my new buddy Noah. I came to Bilbao to stay with our family friends Scott and Katie Lyons, and their toddler Noah. After traveling with just Ben, for a month, I was ready for some new, crazy and wild energy, and there’s been no short supply here.

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Finn and Noah just chilling…

 

When novelist Toni Morrison died last month, my social media feed was filled with tributes. I wanted to participate but I couldn’t just say “R.I.P.” or simply pick my favorite quote. It wouldn’t do justice to the gift of language Morrison had given me.

7908960-LI read her novel Beloved, set in the slave-holding American south, during my sophomore year of college, the same year I found myself unexpectedly pregnant, carrying a child whom I would give up for adoption. Beloved does not have a happy ending and in the final chapter, the main character Sethe grieves for the baby girl she has “lost.” She laments to her friend Paul, “She was my best thing.”

At 19 I read that line and my heart stopped. I didn’t know how to say it before, but it was true.

“She was my best thing” was everything I believed about the life growing within me and she was gone, or about to be. I remember telling Tim the story of Sethe and her daughter, confessing my deepest fears – that having this child and letting her go might be the “best thing” I would ever do.

I was right, but not entirely. Sarah Moses was “my best thing,” but  I went on to marry Tim and he engraved “my best thing” inside my wedding ring. I gave birth to three more children who became “my best thing” – one after another.

“My best thing” became a collective noun for my people, the ones for whom my heart beats and breaks and elates.

And as Toni Morrison passed from this earth this summer, I once again entered a phase of letting go of “my best thing” one by one.

Last month, I drove Finn to Yosemite National Park to embark on a 200+ mile trek on the John Muir Trail. I was so excited for him to make this journey, right up until it came time for him to walk into the woods. Then the water works started…. I wasn’t worried about the danger. Rather it hit me that this was Joseph-Campbell level shit. He will be a different person on the other side of this trip – transformed by the solitude, the hardship and the beauty of the experience. “My best thing” is out there alone.

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This past week, I flew to the east coast to visit Keara and help her organize a new life in Providence, Rhode Island. After her first post-college gig as a scenic carpenter with Williamstown Theater Festival this summer, I thought she was returning home. Instead she got an opportunity to stay and start a new life with new friends in a new city. I am beyond excited for her, but still…. All week long, I was overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance. This is exactly what I wanted for her, but suddenly it seemed like the worst idea in the world. “My best thing” is 3,000 miles away from me for the foreseeable future.

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This last Monday Molly began her senior year of high school. My baby “best thing” is still under my roof, still available for morning hugs and good night kisses, still asking me to be involved in her life on a daily basis. For that I am grateful, but I know it’s just a matter of time. This is slow-motion letting go, day by day, month by month until next fall when it’s her time to say goodbye. I don’t know where she’s headed, but “my best thing” won’t be here with me anymore.

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As I enter this phase of my parenting journey, I am more convinced than ever that Love means letting go – of our fears, agendas, projections, and pride – and at the same time Love means showing up – authentically, humbly, and gratefully. What a privilege it is to Love and be Loved. Truly, it is the “best thing” any of us can hope for.

It’s been a month, but I finally want to thank Toni Morrison for giving me the language to say goodbye, while still holding on to the ones I love.

Your gift was prodigious; your spirit was generous and the legacy of your language will live on in my heart forever.

 

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We all know what TGIF stands for, right?

THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY!!!

Nah, not anymore. I’ve found something better for those letters.

Last month, Brené Brown shared her own version of TGIF on her blog and it’s brilliant. I liked it so much I decided to adopt the practice as my own, not just as a way review my week, but as a conversation starter with the people I care about. On Friday nights, Tim and I are often with family and friends, gathered around a meal or drinks. Bringing up TGIF is the perfect way to talk about something more meaningful than the sports or the weather. We usually end up getting a little vulnerable, laughing at ourselves and each other and inevitably veering off into ten different conversations we wouldn’t have had otherwise. TGIF is a recipe for connection.

So here’s the ingredients:

T – WHAT AM I TRUSTING IN?

G- WHAT AM I GRATEFUL FOR?

I – WHAT AM I INSPIRED BY?

F – WHAT AM I HAVING FUN WITH?

Maybe it’s not surprising, but the T is the one people have the hardest time wrapping their head around. Maybe it’s the way the question is phrased – the WHAT. We’re not used to thinking about what we “trust in” besides people, but there’s a whole range of underlying assumptions that get us through the week – things we’re counting on, hoping for, or expect to be true. One week, I answered, “I’m trusting the process” when I was interviewing for a new part-time writing job. After I got the job, I was “trusting in” my ability to do the work that was asked of me. Tim has been “trusting in” his body to hold up and allow him to do the things he needs (and sometimes wants) to do for another four months or so until he has his hip replacement. T gets us in touch with our deepest hopes and desires.

I think the rest of the letters are pretty self-explanatory, so I’m just going to share my TGIF for the week. Try it out tonight, or some Friday soon with your people

*If you have little ones (or people who are resistant to the TRUST concept), adapt it! The T can work as a Thankful and the G can move to – WHAT WAS I GREAT AT THIS WEEK?

T – TRUSTING IN

If you can’t tell from these pictures, I am TRUSTING IN the next generation. There is so much negativity about the “kids these days” – always has been and probably always will be – but I love hanging out with people who are younger than me – not just my own kids, but other people’s kids too. Not only are they hilarious, but they are also risk-takers, hard workers and deep thinkers to boot. When I can listen from a place of curiosity instead of doubt or judgement, I learn so much from their perspective about what’s going on in the world and where they think we’re headed. My 30-something friends are pretty awesome too, always ready to engage me in new adventures (like belly-dancing) and lovely conversations. (I love people my own age and older generations as well, but I’m TRUSTING IN the next one!)

G – GRATEFUL

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This past week, I’m beyond GRATEFUL for the six nights that all five members of Team Kirks slept under one roof.  That’s the longest stretch we’ve all been together in a year and a half. We had home-cooked meals, game nights, hot tub sessions, movie outings, and stops at Long Island Mike’s, our all-time favorite pizza place. I moved two college kids home and then moved one back out to Massachusetts her first post-graduate job in her field. Also, for the first time ever, we even had a moment where four members of the family were working at Wavelines at the same time. That’s a good day at work!

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Tim snuck out the back door and missed the photo opportunity!

I – INSPIRED

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Last Sunday, we saw Rocketman, the biopic about Elton John. Do yourself a favor – go see it. Not only was it a creative musical masterpiece, but it was also a beautiful, heart-breaking testament to the power of parenting and families, culture and talent to shape our lives. What I found most inspiring of all was Elton’s determination to overcome his addictions midway through his life. The film showed how much courage it takes and how difficult it is for addicts to choose to fully experience what it means to be human after years, or decades of running away from it. To face your trauma, to actually feel your pain, to learn new coping skills, to look in the mirror every day and see the unadulterated truth of who you are and all the ways you’ve been f*@ked over and then f*@ked up – Man, that deserves an Oscar, if not for the film, then for everyone who has ever gotten sober.

F – FUN

It’s always hard for me to narrow this one down, since usually I’m GRATEFUL and INSPIRED by the things I am having the most fun with, but, this week, I am having FUN with music.  I am currently in a six-week personal training group at my local YMCA.  I love my trainer and the people I meet, but man – it is hard work to eat well, drink water and exercise all the time! Whew! I cannot keep it up for more than these forty-two days, but Amazon Prime Music is keeping me company and keeping the tunes flowing. Big props to that next generation that keeps making some incredible and incredibly awful pop music that keeps my feet moving on those timed miles and countless lunges!

It’s a Friday afternoon here on the California coast, just miles away from the Pacific. Summer hasn’t really begun yet, but the sun is making a rare appearance this afternoon and it’s making me smile. I think I’ll grab a book that is TGIF all rolled into one and sit outside and read.  In a few more hours, I’ll be ready to gather with my people ask the question: What are you trusting in these days?  I hope you get a chance to ask them as well.

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Over the years, I’ve often shared what my Mother’s Days were like, how my hopes were met or dashed, based on the performance of my kids and husband. I am a slightly abashed to read those vignettes now, at the neediness they reveal, though they also make me smile. But this year, I had few hopes for Mother’s Day, besides waking up in my own bed. (I’ve been traveling way too much lately.) Mission accomplished! Instead of having my coffee and a pink donut delivered to my bedside, I got my own darn coffee and it was a delightful way to start the day.

At church on Sunday night, I was reminded how our modern Mother’s Day has so little to do with the first speech that inspired it. The original “Mother’s Day Proclamation” of 1870 was written as a protest against war, and a reminder that if women were in charge, things would be run a little differently in our nation and around the world. It reads in part:

… In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before

Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God…

Preach, Julia Ward Howe!

I just wish we had heeded her call more effectively. Peace protests have happened and anti-war movements have had their day. MADD has significantly curbed the violence of drunk driving and Moms Demand Action is making inroads for common sense gun control, but there are still many places where women’s voices are not, and presumably never will be heard.

One of them is a place I have held near and dear to my heart, the Roman Catholic Church, where you will not hear a female voice. Not in leadership, (except to other women, and always under the “authority” of men), not preaching during mass, not speaking for the church at large, not making decisions, or even having more than a minority stake in any decision-making process. Though it was totally normalized in my childhood, I simply cannot wrap my head around it any more. I look at my daughters, my nieces, and their friends and I can’t imagine them being silenced and disenfranchised. I’d like to think my son and his peers wouldn’t allow it either, which is why I was so disappointed in the recent public discussions about the diaconate for women.

Last week, Pope Francis responded  to the reports from a committee he had commissioned to study the history of women’s diaconate in the early church. While they affirmed that women were certainly ordained, they could not agree on “what kind” of diaconate it was.

“There were deaconesses at the beginning [of the church], but [the question is] was theirs a sacramental ordination or not? … There is no certainty that theirs was an ordination with the same formula and the same finality of the male ordination.”

With those words, Francis affirmed again that women must continue to be patient, that more study could be done (with no indication that it would be) and that Divine Revelation would surely continue. In the meantime, he assured the public (I imagine, specifically, the nervous among the all-male clergy), men will continue to be in charge and run things as they see fit, paying little attention to the voices of women.

I’m sure Julia Ward Howe shares my frustration, but she’s not the only one. From the same pulpit, I also heard a powerful response to Francis’ position, written by a group of Irish priests, for whom I am deeply grateful. I consider it a Mother’s Day Proclamation for 2019.

Pope Francis’s comments on women deacons at the press conference on the plane back from Bulgaria, his kicking the can down a timeless road, is a major disappointment. We had come to expect reactions like this from previous popes, but we thought Francis was different, and consequently our disappointment is greater.

The equality of women is critical for the credibility and the future of the Church. Introducing women deacons is such a minimalist step that if he cannot move on that, there is little or no prospect of any real movement towards equality.

His comments send all the wrong messages about women to women and men.

It confirms that women are not good enough, and that in the eyes of the ‘official’ Church men are more worthy than women.

It confirms that many of women’s gifts will continue to be wasted.

It confirms that the official institutional Church is a men’s Church.

It confirms that to be a full member of the Church, exercising all the privileges, you have to be a man.

It confirms that the Church is a structure built by men for men.

It confirms that the Church continues to be a clerical hierarchical patriarchy.

It confirms that injustice is built into the heart of the Church.

This is an enormous blow to reforming the Church and bringing it into the 21st century.

Now is the time for all of us who believe in equality to make our voices heard, clearly and without equivocation. There must be no fudge about where we stand; bishops, priests and people in the pews. Now is not the time for looking over our shoulders, thinking of our chances of promotion, or of offending those in authority. This is much too important.

If you aren’t “into” church, church history, or church politics, you might run right past this post, but if you are “into” women: raising them, teaching them, loving them, partnering and working with them, then I hope you’ll understand how important this subject is.

How the Roman Catholic church, (and Christian churches in general) treat women has a huge impact on how women are treated around the world.

They could do so much better. I have no doubt that God wants them to do better. We would all be better off. And that’s what I really want each and every day – for mothers and for women everywhere.

When my kids were small, Mother’s Day felt like it needed to be all about me, because my daily life seemed so little about me. But every day now, I spend some time alone. I wake when I decide; I go to bed when I’m ready. I cook what I like to eat; I spend time with people – in places I want to be. I work at things I love. All those things were less true to some degree for the last twenty years and so it feels like a turning point. It went from a day when I wanted gratitude to a day when I am overwhelmed with it.

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It is the last day of April. National Poetry Month has finally come to an end and so has my poetry series. I’ve heard from many of you about how much these posts have meant to you by giving you a moment’s pause each day to reflect on something beautiful, or new. I’m so glad I was able to do that, but the pace is a little much for me to keep up. I can’t sustain a daily practice, but I will try to throw out a poetry post once in a while.

One of the most difficult tasks of the month was deciding which poems to include and today was no exception. If I can only share one more gem from Hafiz, which should it be? Just know that whatever poem I chose, there were dozens left on the table. If you’ve enjoyed the last several days in particular, go buy The Gift as a gift to yourself.

“We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners”

We have not come here to take prisoners,

But to surrender more deeply

To freedom and joy.

 

We have not come into this exquisite world

To hold ourselves hostage from love.

 

Run, my dear,

From anything

That does not strengthen

Your precious budding wings.

 

Run like hell my dear,

From anyone likely

To put a sharp knife

Into the sacred, tender vision

Of your beautiful heart.

 

We have a duty to befriend

Those aspects of obedience

That stand outside of our house

And shout to our reason

“O please, O please,

Come out and play!”

 

For we have not come here to take prisoners

Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply

Our divine courage, freedom and

Light!

For me, this poem sums up the essence of Hafiz’s mystical vision.  We have a sacred duty and it is first and foremost to recognize the divine Presence within and to act accordingly. This is a radical revisioning of what most of us raised with religion have been taught.  We have been catechized by church and culture to button it up, keep it down, follow the rules, imprison our passion, obey our reason. Hafiz screams at us to “Run!” from those false prophets who would do violence to the nascent Spirit within us, the one that makes it possible for us to be free – free for God to God’s work within us and the world.

And yet, even as it makes me smile, something inside me grimaces and I find some inner resistance to this poem. Do you sense it too? What part of us disapproves of spiritual freedom, play and joy? I don’t think it’s any part of us. I think it’s the “sharp knife” that was stuck in us when we were small and taught the rules of the game. No matter how much we’ve grown, no matter how much larger our vision is, the point is still there, digging in, reminding us to hold something of ourselves back, to be smart and play it safe.

Ultimately, we may never get rid of the knot in our chest, but the poetry of Hafiz empowers us to ignore the discomfort. He also insists that we protect ourselves from anyone who would push that knife deeper, including our scared and shamed selves. We can obey our fear, disguised as “reason,” or we can obey our God. Too often we worship the former and call it the latter. The poetry of Hafiz and other mystics insist there is another way and it’s the way I want to go – the way of Love, joy, freedom, divine courage, connection and cohabitation.

“Come out and play” friends, the poets are calling you!

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Dissolving into God is a theme found in Sufi poetry and mysticism over and over again, but every poet takes a different approach. Here is one of my favorite’s from Hafiz.

“The Seed Cracked Open”

It used to be

That when I would wake in the morning

I could with confidence say,

“What am ‘I’ going to

Do?”

That was before the seed

Cracked open.

Now Hafiz is certain:

There are two of us housed

In this body,

Doing the shopping together in the market and

Tickling each other

While fixing the evening’s food.

Now when I awake

All the internal instruments play the same music:

“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do

For the world

Today?”

 

And just for good measure, here’s one more nugget of a poem. Hafiz and God have such a good time together!

“Two Giant Fat People”

God

And I have become

Like two giant fat people

Living in a

Tiny boat.

We

Keep

Bumping into each other and

L

A

U

G

H

I

N

G

.

Union with God is serious business, but once it is taken seriously, it seems like the outcome need not be serious at all. I think we have an image in our mind that when one becomes “at one” with God, then they no longer fully experience life. They are “blissed out,” unattached, or “on another plane,” but Hafiz shakes my conviction about the stereotype of the yogi on their cushion, or the saint on their knees. Hafiz didn’t go anywhere when God moved in – body and soul – he just became a truer version of himself. Maybe we don’t lose ourselves when God comes along. Maybe we find more of ourselves. If God is Love and all good, then maybe being joined by God would mean all the good and all the Love in us would be amplified.

Have you ever been so deliciously in love that you’ve walked around with a silly grin on your face for no reason at all? Have you ever been so exceedingly happy that you just want to sing out loud and dance down the street?  (Or run. I’m a dancer, but some people are runners.)  Have you ever laughed so hard you could not stop, even though you couldn’t say what in the world was so funny? Maybe sharing the boat of our bodies with God is like that. Maybe letting the seed of ourselves crack open allows all the joy to spill out.

I hope Hafiz inspires you to make a little bit of “love-mischief” with God today.

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A Sunday reminder about the abundance of God

“So Many Gifts”

There are so many gifts

Still unopened from your birthday.

There are so many hand-crafted presents

That have been sent to you by God.

The Beloved does not mind repeating,

“Everything I have is also yours.”

Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend

If we break into a sweet laughter

When your heart complains of being thirsty

When ages ago

Every cell in your soul

Captured forever

Into this golden sea.

Indeed,

A lover’s pain is like holding one’s breath

Too long

In the middle of a vital performance,

In the middle of one of Creation’s favorite Songs.

Indeed a lover’s pain is this sleeping,

This sleeping,

When God just rolled over and gave you

Such a big good morning kiss!

There are so many gifts, my dear,

Still unopened from your birthday.

O, there are so many hand-crafted presents

That have been sent into to your life

From God.

I could use this reminder almost daily: There is nothing I need this day. It’s all been given; everything is available to me.

If I am feeling underwhelmed with how some aspect of my life is going, it’s because the gift remains “unopened.”  Maybe I haven’t found the time to unwrap it yet; maybe I lack the wisdom or perspective. Maybe it’s actually a lack of desire. Sometimes, frustration, and self-pity are more powerful and comfortable than agency. So go ahead and giggle God, and I’ll try to open my eyes, not hold my breath, and turn towards your kiss, so You, Hafiz and I can all start laughing together.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today Hafiz teaches us about mindfulness.

“Buttering the Sky”

Slipping

On my shoes,

Boiling water,

Toasting bread,

Buttering the sky:

That should be enough contact

With God in one day

To make anyone

Crazy.

“I Want Both of Us”

I want both of us

To start talking about this great love

As if you, I, and the Sun were all married

And living in a tiny room,

 

Helping each other to cook,

Do the wash,

Weave and sew,

Care for our beautiful

Animals.

 

We all leave each morning

To labor on the earth’s field.

No one does not lift a great pack.

 

I want both of us to start singing like two

Traveling minstrels

About this extraordinary existence

We share.

 

As if

You, I, and God were all married

And living in

A tiny

Room.

 

I love these verses, but as I type them up, I wonder what you will think.

Are they too simple? Too silly to be worth noticing? 

I understand the impulse to dismiss poems like these, but just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  To live mindfully is perhaps the greatest challenge of all.

We think our everyday lives are somehow separate from our spiritual path, but Hafiz is inviting us to see them as one and the same. Have you ever thought of God as your roommate? Your office partner? Your sous chef and dishwasher? Why not? Wouldn’t every moment be richer in possibility, bathed in companionship, steeped in meaning? It costs us nothing to try it and we might find that we are getting a much better value for our mortgage.

A few years back, right after I finished at The Living School, I thought I might find some kind of “holy” work to do, but what arose instead was an opportunity to put in more hours at Wavelines, our surf shop.  And so I began what I jokingly referred to as “mindful bikini hanging.” Tim and I would be at the shop in the early hours before the store opened and I would be hanging delicate, expensive nylon triangles on plastic hangars. At first, my ego railed against the smallness of the task before me, but eventually, it stopped. “Mindful bikini hanging” wasn’t a joke any more; it really was a spiritual practice. One day, as I was smoothing out the wrinkles on crop top, Hafiz’s perspective prevailed. The backroom was filled with a soft glow. I looked over at Tim and I thought, “If I never do anything more than this, it is enough. I have everything I need right here.” I had learned to butter the sky and it was “enough contact/ With God in one day” to make me crazy, not every day, of course, but enough to keep me singing.

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I’m grateful to be able to open and close National Poetry Month with two of my all-time favorite poets. The first week, Mary Oliver drew us into the beauty of poetry through the beauty of nature. These last days, Hafiz will usher us out with exuberance, humor and irreverent conversation. Hafiz references nature, but Love is his drug. So without further ado, here is the first poem by Hafiz.

“The Woman I Love”

Because the Woman I love lives inside of you,

I lean as close to your body with my words as I can –

and I think of you all the time,

dear pilgrim.

Because the One I love goes with you wherever you go,

Hafiz will always be

near.

If you sat before me, wayfarer, with your aura bright from

your many charms,

my lips could resist rushing to you, but my eyes, my eyes

can no longer hide the wondrous fact of who

you really are.

The Beautiful One whom I adore

has pitched His royal tent inside of you,

so I will always lean my heart

as close to your soul

as I can.

 

Yesterday, Rabi’a testified about our dissolution into the Divine at the end of our lives, but Hafiz doesn’t want us to wait that long. In almost every poem, he begs his readers to recognize God’s presence in ourselves, and our fellow humans, right here and right now. We shouldn’t worship the Holy as something “out there,” but as something “in here.” That recognition will change our lives.

Too often Christianity has taught that too much love, grace, mercy, or forgiveness will lead us astray, into dissolution and laziness, but as a Sufi mystic, Hafiz, has a different perspective. While it’s true that might happen, “So what!” he seems to say.  It is far more dangerous to live in a world of Divine scarcity and judgment. Look where that’s gotten us! What do we have to lose?

“Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being,” Rumi wrote a hundred years later, echoing Hafiz. True human beings, true believers, don’t become arrogant and grasping, but ever more humble, recognizing the Beauty in others that they carry within themselves and their life’s mission becomes sharing that vision, as in this poem. Clearly Hafiz loves the woman, her aura and charms, but what he truly Loves is the Woman within. Call it the True Self; call it God. Call it what you want, but I call it good.

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This portrait of Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, is by female Iranian artist, Shirin Neshat. 

Rabi’a’s poetry tackles the reality of death. She doesn’t find it frightening, but nor does she long for it as an escape route from her difficult circumstances. Death will simply and beautifully bring her to her Beloved. It may feel like an interruption of the Easter joy, but it is simply another side of it.

A prayer

Kill my ego, God,

the empty, troublemaking

version of myself.

Burn away the darkness

of my false self

and then my true Self

will shine like sunlight.

Dissolve my ego

into the Being

who is everything.

 

“Cherish Myself”

I know how it will be when I die,

my beauty will be so extraordinary that God will worship me.

He will not worship me from a distance, for our minds will have wed,

our souls will have flowed into each other.

How to say this: God and I

will forever cherish

Myself.

“Die before you die,” the Prophet Mohammed said and Rabi’a took to heart. The prayer I shared is a reflection of her desire to live by that teaching, which echoes that of Jesus: “Unless a grain of what shall die, it remains but a single grain.” It is a question humans have wrestled with for thousands of years: How do we do that?

Rabi’a’s two reflections here – the prayer and the poem – offer a contrast of methods. The first method, of “killing the ego” isn’t a truly holy one, but for thousands of years, it was thought to be the only one. Self-abuse and self-sacrifice dominated the spiritual path to holiness. What else were the fires of hell and flames of purgatory for, but to “burn away the darkness” that kept us from the everlasting Light?

But there has always been another way, revealed by the mystics and sages throughout the ages and the second poem reveals the secret. Dissolving into Love, we become one with God, so we do not need to deny, or destroy any part of ourselves. We simply have to let Love do the work of loving us – all of us – bringing the darkness into the light. The Love of the Divine does not reject any of it, not the wounds, the scars, the pain. If God really is all powerful, then we have nothing to fear.

A final reminder from Rabi’a: “So beautiful my death appeared – knowing who then I would kiss, I died a thousand times before I died… I was born [again] when all I once feared – I could love.”

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