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Writing field notes: A spiritual practice of connection

It’s been a couple of years now since I set out to explore and cultivate a deepened connection with the natural world right outside my door. Like many, I live in an urban setting with ample amounts of cement and asphalt, but I was not to be deterred.  I wanted to know the names of the trees and plants in my yard.  I wanted to know the names of the winged ones coming to the bird feeder, the ones hanging out in the nearby city park as well.  This desire for deepened connection sprang from an evolving, awakening of spirit, and a discovery of new capacity to wonder and to pay closer attention to what’s happening around me, especially in the natural world.  It also emerged as I became more conscious and curious of what interdependence meant on a day by day basis.  To realize that my place in the interdependent web of life is actually NOT at the center after all, I am being reoriented to place and to growing relational capacity to be able to receive freely extended revelations offered by the living beings around me.

Today, I confidently identify a fair number of birds and water fowl by name.  Coots and Cormorants, Mergansers and Wigeons, Shovelers and Mallards, Ring-billed and Mew gulls, and those Northern Shovelers, recent arrivals.  Juncos, Chickadees, Finches and Sparrows of various stripes, Wrens and Towhees, Robins and Cedar Waxwings. Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks.  Yes!  The sighting, the naming delights me endlessly!

This practice of cultivating connection with the living beings in my yard and neighborhood takes expression as a spiritual practice I refer to now as urban questing.  Urban questing is about knowing where you are, knowing who’s with you, and being where you are. Seeking to explore and build connection, I’m practicing placing myself out there in the field of my yard, in the field of the local park, by the fields of waters, listening, receiving, because I know I must now.  I am a part of the interdependent web of life and I have so much to learn yet about being in relation this way.

Identifying, naming birds, can be a first incremental step of connecting, discovering one’s place in the larger scheme of things.  What I’ve noticed in placing myself outside time and again, is that I’m beginning to really care.  Yes, you heard me say it.  I CARE about the beings in a way I never cared before.  I care about their habitat.  I care about the conditions impacting them.

So there are natural consequences for practices like this, some intended, some discovered.  I am finding welcomed, new capacities to see, to hear both in the outer fields, but also within. I’m becoming more finely tuned to the pace of the places I enter.  The places are requiring me to slow down. I’ve also noticed that as my care is deepening, I’m challenged to look more clearly and soberly at the impact of my way of life on the environment.

There are consequences to practicing connection.  If you care enough to make connection, you eventually will face a disorientation that comes when you become aware of how your actions are directly impacting the wellbeing of the larger web.  Eventually, there will be a necessary review and reorientation that reflects a deepened re-alignment of your behavior with this new consciousness.  It will be too uncomfortable NOT to realign yourself, otherwise, the connection is doomed.

“Making new maps”: Placing attention on what matters

 

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“….in honor of what can be born of darkness, and care, and rooting deep in place, may we make new maps together out of hope, and fallen twigs.”  S. Lindsteadt, A Green Language

 

Leading with a series of questions is risky, but I’m going to take the leap anyway because I don’t know any other way to begin this.  Perhaps, I’ll suggest as a preface that you consider these questions when you have some quiet moments for reflection in the next few days. The end of the year, even the winter time, is a good period for rest and reflection, so we can figure out our next steps.  Don’t worry about a deadline.

What matters most to you, now?  Who and what do you feel a meaningful connection?

Do you feel divided in your energy and time because of feeling ladened with care?

Are you desirous for deeper alignment of your values and your actions/behavior in your life and in the world? 

 Do you experience connection to the sacred when you’re outside in the natural world?

Do you feel you have energy to fine tune your commitments?  Do you feel you have choice here or do you feel trapped in some way?

Are there people/dates/organizations on your calendar that you need to ‘let go of,’ ‘quit,’ ‘remove,’ ‘unsubscribe’ from?  

Who and what is missing on your calendar, in your schedule?

These questions are surfacing in my interior reflection pond in these last days of this year.  There’s both promise and pressure to a new starting point like the new year.  It’s a time to re-imagine what’s possible now, given where we are, given our individual – collective energy.  Having a fresh starting point like the new year, can allow us to re-place [place again] our divided attention/energy on the places, people, organizations/movements, commitments that are in deepest alignment with our values and what we hold as sacred.

Sylvia Linsteadt’s words of invitation and blessing to ‘make new maps of hope,’ appeals to my idealist side, the side that lives in the ‘what if.’   What if I shift attention more completely here?  What if I release this?  Who will I be making room for?

My map of hopes and twigs

As I place my hope-filled commitments in words now, I do so with an intention to honor the lands and waters of my ancestors that have and continue to nourish my bones and spirit. May they guide and direct my heart and actions.

~I commit to continue to practice as an urban contemplative, nurturing connection to the natural world, practicing embodied connection with self/others/the Divine through song, movement, story, and stillness, and sharing this journey more publicly through writing, to build connections

~I commit to be more vulnerable and open to the Divine, to “Love’s way”

~I seek to travel with others who are practicing loving, stewardship of the earth, and acting on her behalf as led to do so

You?  If you sense a desire arising for revising, paring down, shaping up, re-focusing your attention and energy, a revising of your interior map, I’m hopeful to share more questions, reflections, prayers, field notes from my wanderings and pondering in the future to accompany you.

Lectio Finale: Found Poems in the End

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It’s important to be on time.
I’m marking time.
You won’t experience time on the other side.
I feel like its been winter for a long time.
I’m marking time.
This is no way to live.
I feel like it’s been winter for a long time.
I’m ready.
This is no way to live.
You won’t experience time on the other side.
I’m ready.
It’s important to be on time.

 
The form of the pantoum poem lends itself to hearing the single voice of each line as a ‘final,’ disclosure or lesson, but also as a collection, the joint voices blend to speak their wisdom. These words come from listening to those speaking at the end of life. Discretion is being used to share the general spirit of the words disclosed.

 

WONDERING Around: The Play in Self Care and Creating

I’m in the “collecting ingredients for a stew” mode.  When I begin a process of designing for an event like a retreat, I listen to ‘what’s up,’ for me, what I’m curious about, what lands on my desk top – web frequency, what emerges from the meditation cushion, and of course the dream scape.  It’s all fair game for the stew.

After my sit this morning, I began playing my shruti box (a drone sound) and singing/vocalizing aloud through a litany of phrases and words to get at the bottom of this place of discontent I’ve been feeling for several weeks.  This state of mind – heart – body, i.e. confusion, fatigue, irritability, cynicism, manifests impatience, more fatigue, discouragement, criticalness of self and others.  NOT a pretty place to live.  VERY unhappy place in fact.  I kept singing about what I thought I was unhappy about, and then it occurred to me.  This is doubt!  This is what doubt is.  It’s insidious in that I never quite know when it starts.  It can lurk around for days, weeks, and I do my adapting thing of ‘explaining’ to myself and others, what’s up, when it’s really just about doubt.  Self doubt. As I spoke that truth, my heart began to soften with the fatigue that goes with this state in my mind/ bodyspirit.  The tears flowed.  Beginning to clear….Phew!

So as I continue to listen and bring my own voice and the voices of others to the ‘design field,’ I’m circling with women who are writing about spiritual development of women, my own experience of  “timing” in life, May Sarton, Annie Dillard, “Mystic Tech,” what does nature have to say about soul – timing, economy of energy/resource.  WONDERING around….

 

Restoring Your PLAY Factor: “Playing Along”

Recently, on a morning walk through my neighborhood, I found myself within earshot of a lovely interaction.  A young family was walking to their car along with their 2.5/3 year old daughter. The child informed her parents, “Baby is in the car.”  A brief moment passed, and I heard the mother say with genuine enthusiasm, as she opened the car door, “Hello Baby.”   I thought to myself, THAT’s PLAYING along!  May not seem like such a big deal at first, but what this mother offered in FOLLOWing the cue, was a great big ‘ole fat gift of affirmation to her child and for herself to let go…and to rest into the opportunity presented to play.

Imagine UPPING your ‘playing along’ skills.  The ‘over culture’ says that being a leader is all about initiating stuff. The truth is people can’t be leaders if no one is there to follow…to play along…ecstatically…full on!  Truthfully, following, can actually be restful, energizing, without being passive.  Give it a go!

Benefits of PLAYING ALONG:

  • Allows us to REST our initiator side, that part of us that needs to “work” on stuff, or make SENSE of everything, or be extra ‘dazzling’
  • Opportunity to back someone up
  • Affirming the side of us that’s willing to throw it all in and just follow – receive  what’s happening around us