Reflections on a Winter's day:
What is the substitute to living a sacred life, that is, a life lived without profound awe for the very actuality of being alive? A life lived without reverence for all living beings, without respect for one another, without a sense of the sublime, without bowing before the mystery of the universe in which we live, without experiencing the give and get of love...is the unexamined life.
The most influential thinker of the fifth century, the Greek philosopher Socrates, credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy expressed that "the unexamined life is not worth living." To Socrates, the path to deep wisdom was a sacred and holy quest, and the one thing he always claimed knowledge of was the "art of love." Plato was the prized student of Socrates and Aristotle the student of Plato. These three ancient Greeks created a worldview that has influenced Western civilization from the time of ancient Greece to modernity. I like to think of them as the original "three tenors."
How often, in the course of a day, do we stop to thank the mystery that fuels our breath, to which we owe our lives? Do we stop at all? Ever? Or do we only notice when we have "shortness" of breath and experience panic attacks at the very thought of an interrupted breath? An interrupted breath affects everything we do, everything we feel, everything, period. An interrupted breath will jolt us back to the present moment like no other event in our lives. Breath is life. How often do we stop to celebrate this greatest of divine mystifications?
The alternative to living a sacred life -- an unexamined life -- is a life lived without any connection to the mystery that brought us in and will see us out, when it is our time to leave this earth. So what does that really mean? It really means that we have no idea as to what we are doing here; no understanding of our true purpose while here and no conception of life as a state of grace. And what can we say we truly know about the "art of love," the very notion of which, in religious contexts is thought of as the basis of being?
My muse, the late Celtic poet, theologian and author John O'Donahue wrote this:
"Grace is one of the most majestic words in theology. It suggests sublime spontaneity of the divine which no theory or category could ever capture. Grace has its own elegance. It is above the mechanics of agenda or operation. No one can set limits to the flow of grace....Grace also suggests how fluent and seamless divine presence is....It suggests a compassion and understanding of the human experience and pain. This climate of kindness nurtures the sore landscape of the human heart and urges torn ground to heal and become fecund. Grace is the perennial infusion of springtime into the winter bleakness."
And this from John O'Donahue:
"When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. The deeper questions about who we are and what we are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives....
....To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement. You learn to come down from the treadmill and walk on the earth. You gain a new respect for yourself and others and you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence. You know now that your true source is not outside you. Your soul is your true source and a new energy and passion awakens in you. The soul dwells where beauty lives."
We are living at a time when the human experience is one of constant interruption of thought, when our senses are bombarded from morning to night and few are able to enjoy a healing night's sleep enveloped in the anxiousness of our modern world. We are living at a time when connectivity has produced at least one unintended outcome. Rather than bringing us closer to one another in any meaningful way, we have arrived at a place where the gulf between us could not be greater or more superficial. And now it even takes too much of our energy, apparently, to spell out a word and so we've created a device to accommodate yet another reason to mirror shortness of breath. Welcome to the land of Twitter. Welcome to millions of us young and old, for whom spelling the word "you" simply takes too much time. Now that word once known as "you" is reduced to "u."
And we thought that Prince, or "the artist fomerly known as Prince" shortening his name in the early 1990s to a symbol, had gone completely mad. In retrospect, merely ahead of his time, wouldn't you say? Or is it that when we're exhausted, at the deepest level of soul, words elude us and our responses are uttered with the shallowest of breaths?
At a dinner party a few evenings ago a friend noted that I had become very "focused" in the last few years. I took it as it was intended: as an expression of praise. I took it as the compliment it is, as I am reminded of John O'Donahue when he wrote about entering the gentleness of soul and how doing so changes the quality and tone of one's life. Awakening the sacred in everyday life changes everything. For you. For those around you. For everyone who enters your world. Once awakened to the sacred, you are forever changed. Hallelujah!
I heard someone say that you are "heir to the world you identify with." And if that is so, what is the legacy you will leave behind? And so if today your life still remains unexamined, I have only one question for you to ask of yourself: if not now, when will you examine your life?
After all, we are so close to Valentine's Day now, why not give yourself the gift of heart to open all the chambers, once and for all? If you do that first, just imagine how many hearts will be open to you. And then Valentine's Day will not only be about what you get, but also about what you give....Discovery of the sacred, like any treasure hunt worth its adventure, begins with the opening of heart. If you can find your way to an open heart, you will discover the treasure you've been looking for and then that treasure will provide the key to the doorway looking out, on your sacred life.
If you can find your way to an open heart, with a lookout onto your sacred life, why then, you might just also immerse yourself in the most creative of the arts: the art of love. May Valentine's Day of this year set you forth on your most inspired treasure hunt, yet.
Image and Words of Sante Fe artist, Marga Friberg:
“What is the essence of what remains?
The essence is most probably all there ever was anyway....
The rest were just garments, draped and cleverly tucked to make us into something the rest of the world wanted, we thought. What a surprise when we find that we were our only and worst fashion critics. Most people didn’t care because they were much more involved with nipping and tucking their own garments to hide the core, to ever be concerned with us...."
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Hello Anya and Neighbor.
Thanks for the reminder to check in and say how much I am looking forward to meeting new friends next Saturday. Thank you for continuing to honor my late and personal friend, John O'Donahue. His ability to assist us humans on this journey of soul discovery is badly needed. And thanks for the reminder to check in to see - Am I breathing? I know without a doubt that my life of soulful examination is daily discovery and it is a luxury to explore indeed.
See you on Saturday, Margarita
Good chilly morning Anya...
thank you for reminding me to check in- a little nudge is oh so helpful. I am joyfully anticipating a return to your workshop and spending time in Barbara's beautiful home. I can't believe it was two years ago that I first experienced your guided soulful transformation through the written word. You are such a love and I can't wait to spend the day with you and friends.
thank you for this beautiful still moment of breathing after reading your reflections. I am so excited and longing for Saturday - held in warmth and safety - a quiet time to breathe, reflect, and listen with an open heart. I will see you soon.
Sent with love, Jean
..both those I know well and those I look forward to welcoming to my home for the first time... but certainly not the last... I have just arrived in Sonoma on this gray day and it truly feels like a homecoming. With the rain outside, and a fire in the hearth, I especially appreciate Anya's turning us to the words of John O'Donohue.
Yes, there is beauty in contemplating the glowing coals, and a glass of wine that connects us with people who worked in other lands, decades ago. Together we will create a sacred space. I look forward to sharing all of this with you on Saturday.
With much love, Barbara Do Zobaczenia (this means 'til then in Polish) :)
Thank you for nudging me into this space if only for a few physical minutes of this day. If I could live in the heart of the sacred life every moment, I would be in heaven. The integration of the journey of the soul with the urgency of material accomplishments and needs on this carnal earth is my continual struggle. We are here cloaked in our garments for a reason, if only to discover how to take them off and see and enjoy who we truely are.
I am grateful for nurturers in my life such as you, who continually beckon me to not forget to feed my soul so it may live and participate with the collective conciousness of the universe. I look foward to our sacred day tomorrow, shared with like hungry minds and souls.
I think your latest peice is your best yet. It encourages us to breathe deep, think, appreciate and be aware of each moment. Only then can we savor all the great events of our lives and forget the destination..... and instead hang our heads out the window and with the wind in our hair, gaze upon each wonderous detail along our journey's way. I am looking forward to our time in retreat tommorrow.
After our day together yesterday, despite all of the challenges we juggle, I hope you all AWOKE AND AROSE DANCING TO GREET THE NEW DAY. I know I did and I have you all, and especially Anya, to thank for awakening joy in my heart. I call on the one to bless us all and keep us on the path of the sacred. Fellow warriors, may you go forth with an open heart and may my love and the love of all our group be the wind beneath your wings, as you are mine.
Prayer of Longing
At this moment
Let me rededicate myself to spirit
Let me commit my life to soul...
For this I pray
To recognize that it is not winter
Let me shed this cloak of worry
Let me unwind this scarf of fear and let it fall
Let me unbutton this bulky sweater
and with it the idea of loss and want and strip them off.
Let me unzip my jeans and slide out of them as I slide away from "must dos" and "must haves,"
Let me throw off my shoes and socks and wiggle my toes in the grass,
Let me forget there is such a thing as time or lack thereof
Once I am naked in the sunlight.
Let me reenergize myself with this gift of breath,
Let me feed my hunger with the beauty of your creation,
Let me look up into the night sky filled with the light of innumerable twinkling stars
and then close my eyes and know that however vast the world may be,
the inner world is much more vast and greater.
And let me begin to explore,
Let me in my thirst abandon this desert of aloneness
this parched ache of separation,
Let me with faith dig a deep hole into the center of my heart and not quit
until I find the deep aquifer of your light, compassion, truth and love.
May I drink fully, may I frolic in your waters splash and play until I am cleansed,
sated and fully aware that we have always been one I have never been alone.
And by your grace from this place of knowing, may I then become the fountain
from which others can fill their cups and drink until they too know that
all there is is love.
Written to Anya on 24 February, 2011:
Looking forward to the mystery of this day.
After the Retreat:
Thanks for the inspirational messages.
I awoke this morning singing this song (below) that had threaded itself into my dreams and I knew that the magnificent spirit of each and every one of you was still hovering around my aura. Ah, such a comforting cloak of energy for this chilly February day.
So faster than a speeding email I send everyone a wave of love and the message that each time someone dropped their mask and became vulnerable it oddly lifted us into a realm of delicious peace. This is quite the opposite of what I feared being vulnerable meant.
There was a sweet unity that came from our "safe place," sharings," and my own feeling of aloneness lifted as I rocked in the cradle of your wisdom. Thank you, thank you, all.
Songwriters: Lennon, John Winston; McCartney, Paul James
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Blackbird fly blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
What a magical space and time yesterday.
Thank you all for amazing wit, grace, and support. Anya, thank you for your teaching and leadership in to the sacred. The quote I tried to remember at the end of the day yesterday is below.
“One does not become enlightened by imaging figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
With much love and appreciation I send wishes for you all on this beautiful day.
It was a day of comfort and soulful re-remembering... Barbara - thank you for allowing us to grace your home and we hope we left our best footprints in your Sonoma home that will contribute to your inner journey. I am sure as Anya reminded....
I enjoyed meeting so many of you and hope that we will find the time to check in from time to time.
Happy Mardi Gras! and Springtime.
Dear Anya and friends,
Thank you so much for your treasured gift of guidance into our souls, the dark and the light, the universe we are immersed in and part of. I also thank each and every soul that was present with us through yesterday’s journey. You gifted so much to my life through your healings.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I love the path we share and cherish the times we converge in our physicality with our spiritual moment on our sleeves. I have faith that when we are not in the same room, our souls dance together in the sky above, watching us, waiting for us, beckoning us to spend more time dancing with them in their sacredness. What a gift it is to know they never give up, they are never gone, they are always there with a light in their spirit, joyful for every moment of our awareness.
Thank you, Deb
Thank you to all from the bottom of my heart. Yesterday is a day I will treasure always.
Good morning on this chilled day, and yet still beautiful as I walk with my dogs along the road and look up again into the blue piercing sky, the red tail hawks are soaring above me. They are my spirit bird. Thank you.
Will see you in June.
Thank you so profoundly for creating a day of beauty. I will treasure yesterday as I move forward in my world. What a day of majesty.
A wonderful day with a very special group of people. Moments of soulful revelation, all hearts touched by the gentle hand of fellowship,....the warmth of our touch lingers.....
I feel blessed to have been with all of you. I hope to be again. Warmth and light,
Thank you so much. I read your words before Valentine's Day and now again. What a sword's edge: to live an examined life and to let go of outcome all at once!
Written to Anya on 15 February, 2011:
The House of Belonging is such a powerful piece of incredible imagery and feeling. It took me on a journey in my own soul which was truly magical. I will treasure this insight which you created.
After the Retreat:
To all you beautiful souls,
A special thanks to Anya and Terry for sharing again such incredibly profound words and images. I personally have been deeply contemplative since our majestic day and I am so grateful for this and to all of you. I have felt the warmth of my emotions so beautifully, yet challengingly and for that I thank you.
I have been able to ask myself some very poignant questions and I am holding my heart with great care and devotion. On this soulful rainy day I am blessed to have met you all and I am carrying you all with me as I move forward on this journey. I just wanted to share this quote -
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
With deep regard,
Thank you all for bringing such beauty into my home. I could feel the warmth of your spirits as I spent the next few quiet days by the fire. You truly created a magical space and I am deeply grateful. I am also deeply moved by the words that all of you have shared in the past few days.
I continue to hold all of you in my heart.