Thursday, March 26, 2009

Have You Created A Space Where Angels Can Multiply? Or, Creating A Space Where Healing Can Occur...

"John Calvi, who's directing our workshop, talks about healing not as curing, but as creating a space where healing can occur. Healing forces are at work everywhere within an organic system. As Galway Kinnell puts it in his poem, St. Francis and the Sow: 'Everything flowers from within of self-blessing.' But when I'm cramped up with fear or anger or self-loathing, nothing can move. As the Sacred Harp text goes:

I'm fettered and chained up in clay.
I struggle and pant to be free

I long to be soaring away --

Hindu cosmology teaches gardeners to create a wild space in the perennial bed where devas -- angels -- can multiply. They need such a lot of room."

~ Mary Rose O'Reilley ~
The Barn At The End Of The World -
The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

Of late, I've needed to create a space where angels could multiply. I didn't need curing, but I deeply needed to create a space where healing could occur. I've spoken to very few people, answered only a very few e-mail, and gone about the cottage and done the daily tasks, cared for the animals, and tended my wild garden very much in the Buddhist sense of "Chop wood, carry water." We long to witness the Divine, but the most sacred tasks we will ever encounter come in the round of daily chores. We love the flowers but amending the soil, weeding and watering, allow the flowers to grow. The new path that is opening before me can only be traversed when I have shed past burdens, learned to take the albatross from around my neck, and lightened my load in every way possible. I am creating a space where angels can multiply. They need such a lot of space, and without this fluttering lightness allowing the sunlight to filter through, I would not be able to move ahead safely. I am emerging from a long dark tunnel. I am making way for the life ahead. At last. At last...

And while inner work is composting and needs be left alone to become lush and fertile I am doing outer things to take care of myself. I'm letting my hair grow, just a little. I had to get new glasses and instead of the heavy dark rims I usually wear, I ordered pale pink wire framed glasses with no rim on the bottom. I look 50 pounds lighter just with the glasses. I dress simply in long flowing caftans, shawls and sandals, as I always have, but I am taking care of my physical body. I am eating healthy and losing weight. I am taking care of my nails and they look pretty. No, not polished or colored, but taken care of, something I rarely have done since my hands are so often in the earth or caring for the cottage animals. Inotherwords, it is important to become lighter, and care about our bodies, our physical presence in the world as well. I am preparing in so many ways.

My demeanor is motherly and gentle, soft and quiet. When I counsel people, or teach, I talk softly. One of the wisest things I ever heard as a mother was that yelling at a child is not only destructive but does no good because they shut down. Speak softly, almost at a whisper. The child will become quiet and strain to listen to you. Her body will relax as yours does. Lower the energy, move slowly, allow your gestures and touch to be tender. Soothe the savage spirit. Anger breeds anger. Hate breeds hate. Violence breeds violence. Love breeds love.

Love must begin for ourselves and all that we are. We must first be tender with ourselves before we are able to be loving, gentle and compassionate with another. This is also the definition of maitri, the teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, the name I have taken, the life I have chosen. I feel like a little girl, at times, stepping into her mother's much too big shoes. I can't wait to one day be grown up enough to wear them. And then I feel fathoms deep inside myself as I meditate and pray and prepare for my life as a minister. And yes, I wrote about going by a single name, Maitri, and I meant it. Personally, intimately, inside myself, with those I love, a familiar name with those I know, and even those who represent my congregation in this outreach ministry around the world. But there is no getting around the fact that I am officially and legally, in the church and in the world, Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule. Mother Maitri. I am both.

These are some of the wildflowers I have been picking in the field, along roadsides, and the highways and byways in my mind. I spiral down to the center of my being, slowly, slowly, slowly, and then faster, faster, faster up and out into the world around me, like a shooting star. This is how it feels, what it means, to find and follow your destiny, but we can still become afraid, we can still doubt, we can still forget all that we know. That's why it meant so much to me when a friend reminded me, very recently, in the midst of a blizzard of fear coming at me, blinding me, to let go and have faith that I would be provided for. The child in me who once upon a time believed in magic and miracles, and of late is finding them again, am blessed beyond measure to have such a friend. She is a star in the firmament of my life. I am blessed beyond measure with the friends, the family, the students in my life. I was reminded of this in a precious, tender moment with my 4 1/2 year old grandson a couple of days ago.

Lucas and I are birthday twins. My daughter went into labor at my house the night of my 50th birthday party. Lucas was born May 1. We celebrate our birthdays together every year. This year I will be 55 and he will be 5.

When I babysat on Monday he looked at me and patted me, with the faith and innocence of a child, and he said to me, "Grandma, I know what I'm going to get you for your birthday. I'm going to find Henry and bring him back." Henry, my beloved grey parrot whom I handraised and loved for 10 1/2 years, who talked constantly, and spent a good deal of every day on my shoulder, and who disappeared on November 8, shattering some part of my heart, a part that will have a hole in it the size of a little grey bird for the rest of my life, and a tiny, towhead blond, wise and magical 4 1/2 year old boy could see straight into my heart. I don't believe I've ever been so touched. He hugged me with his skinny little arms and I buried my face in his silky, curly hair. Lucas is one of my angels.

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for
thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Hebrews 13:12

If you can remember this you will look at strangers differently. Perhaps you will smile at them as you pass, perhaps the devas, spirits and angels that are here to watch over us come in the form of a co-worker, an elderly neighbor, a tiny towhead blond boy hugging your neck. So yes, I am making space for angels. I am creating a space where healing might occur so that I have something to offer others. I will not be forgetful. I have work to do, and I need all the angels that can multiply and manifest to help me along the way. I am not a little girl, I am a near 55 year woman. I am a minister. I have chosen a path and I am learning how to follow it. I have learned, once again, to believe in magic and miracles. They do exist. I've plenty proof of that.

Create space, for angels, for healing, and for miracles. You don't have to believe, you just have to make space, and the rest will follow. At least that's what I'm learning to do, and most days I remember.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Layers, Cells, Constellations ~ Metamorphosis...

"We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations."

Anaïs Nin

"I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred
years to figure out I can't change the world. I can only

change Bessie. And, honey, that ain't easy either."

Annie Elizabeth "Bessie" Delany at 104

"So it came about that both legally and familiarly,
as well
as in my books, I now have only one name,
which is
my own."
~ Colette ~

Part of my retreating into my cocoon, my near silence and solitude, was a necessary part of my understanding the different parts of myself, that which had been, that which I am becoming, and the amalgamation of all the various phases and stages along the way.

My childhood left me vulnerable, fragile, naked, tender, soft. I could not have survived that way. Through the years of my young adulthood to my mid forties, marriage and children, to the leaving of the marriage, I had been shape-shifting without knowing it. Through thirty years of writing and teaching and living amidst a family of 5 I was learning more than I realized, and then I was suddenly alone. Somehow that set the seal on the first half of my life, and at that point I began the metamorphic process, entering the cocoon, and a deep and unknown transformation began to take place.

At just past 50, with the finalization of my divorce, I changed my name legally to Maitri, which I have often stated, and I took that name and all it meant to be my guiding star, not that I thought I had achieved maitri, but that in taking the name I would remember all the days of my life that my purpose was to daily try to live up to the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and further, to write about it, teach it, share it, and plant seeds of compassion all along the way.

My metamorphosis, my true metamorphosis, began to take place when I was ordained the first week in January, but even then I had no idea what I was about to become, or would be becoming for the rest of my days. And I have struggled with the title, with the name, and you have traveled that journey with me if you have been reading my writings here. Officially ordained Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule, I first used Reverend Maitri for ease, and then it felt more appropriate, more humble, to use the simple name Mother Maitri, and then, suddenly, as when the fledgling butterfly first escapes the cocoon, stretches it's wings and looks around at the world, I saw it as if for the first time.

Yes, I am a minister. Yes, I am a writer and teacher. And yes, I am Maitri. And if my most certain direction (... knowing of course that I will be buffeted about, hither and yon, by life...) is to teach, to write about, to share the teachings of loving-kindness and compassion, and all that goes along with the Buddhist teaching of maitri, then, truly, I need nothing more than a single name, save for legal documents...

"So it came about that both legally and familiarly,
as well
as in my books, I now have only one name,
which is
my own..."

I needn't be concerned about anything else, because my name says it all. It is the reminder that I need, the star that I reach for, the seeds that I spread, the purpose and scope of my teaching and writing all expressed by one little word. Maitri.

Need I say that I am a minister to teach love? Must I use a title to command respect? Certainly not. We earn respect, or we don't, and a title has nothing to do with it. I will be striving, even as I am teaching, to learn, to live the principles of maitri all the days of my life. I believe it is why I was put on this earth. It is what I have to share. It is small and humble and heartfelt, and I need not have a prefix nor a surname to do the work that I was meant to do. I am Maitri. No more, no less.

This is what I went into seclusion to find. And closer and closer I came, down a long and winding road, and I had to be divorced and alone to get here, and I had to take the name Maitri legally to start the process of metamorphosis, and I had to be ordained to allow the cocoon to start to open, and now, with a single name, I can move forward into all that I am, all that I can be, all that I hope for, and dream of, and pray that I am worthy of the name I have taken, and let me wear it with joy, and grace, and be a lantern that leads me through the dark days that surely will come.

In reading this issue of the magazine, The Sun, I was reminded of a quote by Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor. He wrote,

"What is to give light must endure burning."

I thought about that, as I have before, in a way few people would understand. No, I certainly would not have wished to have had a childhood full of abuse, but those long years of burning taught me empathy, compassion, gentleness, and a tender kindness for people who have suffered all manner of afflictions, damaged hearts, trembling souls. And there is not a person on this planet who has not suffered something of the above. We must never look at the outside of a person or their world and judge them above or below us, for we are all on a level playing field, and those who seem to "have it all" sometimes suffer most of all. And the homeless man or woman in the street may be the Saviour dressed in rags. Judge not, less ye be judged. Be maitri. Live maitri. Give, from your deepest heart, love, kindness, and compassion to all.

And so I have reached another fork in the road and I journey onwards. I move slower, and more softly. I am not so quick to make decisions, but to allow myself to be led by life and spirit to the perfect knowing I need in the present moment. I pray that I may be of service to others. I pray for guidance and for help as I do the work ahead.

And I am ready. I am...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The seen and the unseen...more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy..."

Shakespeare, Hamlet

This has been a very hard piece to write and will, perhaps, be a harder piece to understand, but it is as though these thoughts, words, feelings come from beyond me, and the very words that I write are coming from the spirits that guide me. Most people have such staunch belief in their own path and way of thinking that while they take God "on blind faith" they don't accept much that is at work on this earthly plane that they cannot see, touch, feel, hear, taste. I have gone so deep into a spiritual path, a place of mysticism, that it made me think of some of the books that I love most that are considered "Magical Realism," because parts of the books go beyond what most people will believe possible. And that is the very crux of the matter for me. I see the things that are unseen, because I go so deep in meditation and prayer for such long periods of time. I can see them, touch them, taste them, and I feel their presence. This puts me in an odd place amongst the vast majority of people, and so I think it is best that I lead a cloistered life, at least for now, and give all I can give from right here. This is what I plan to do.

The last couple of weeks or so I have been having a time out of time experience. It is very hard to explain. I was floating somewhere between the seen and the unseen, heaven and earth. I have spent a lot of time in meditation and prayer, seeking guidance and answers on this new path I have been set on. Ordained and yet not preaching in a church, finding my own way which includes teachings from Buddhism, Christianity, the path of St. Francis, and the Catholicism I was raised in, as well as earth based religions, Native American spirituality, and more. I have been seeking knowledge, reading, studying, letting the unseen guide me, and seeing where it will take me.

These things have taken me to extraordinary places from my physical body to somewhere beyond. I have a feeling right now that most of you think I have gone "round the bend" and loop de loop. There certainly was a period, perhaps for most of my life, when I would think a person saying some of the things I have said and will say in this post downright insane. This is why I have hesitated to write all of this. Even yesterday when I planned to get this up and had already written most of what you've read so far, if you're still with me, that my stomach flip-flopped and I thought, "You can't say that." Sheesh.

It has been hard for people to understand that I am an ordained minister and yet not in the ordinary sense. I am studying the lives of the saints, Thomas Merton, the Benedictine monks as well as Buddhist monks and what I see in every religion I study is that there are always some that are cloistered, and some that walked alone. Jesus didn't preach in a temple nor did Buddha. St. Francis lived very humbly and very close to the earth. Buddha found enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The great spiritual leaders taught by walking amongst the people of the world, or living apart from them in solitude and prayer. I am humbled by their divinity as well as their humanity.

I have become sensitive to every breath, the song of every bird, the wind touching my cheek, the angels that are around me, and the spirits that guide me. This is very hard to explain to people and it is as though now that I am ordained I have gone to the cave on the mountain to find the answers that will send me back out with the knowledge necessary to do what I am here to do. What I know, right now, is that my message, my mission, my work, is to concentrate on spreading seeds of compassion, loving-kindness, mindfulness, and the oneness of all things. My writing is my vehicle to share what I am learning, the song from my lips, the seeds I plant along the way. I am singing my songs to you. I think I have a lot in common with with Johnny Appleseed and Jean Giono's "The Man Who Planted Trees," planting seeds and saplings that no one will notice and a flower filled meadow filled with apple trees will be left in my wake. I will not go down in the history books like Gandhi or Mother Theresa, nor should I. My work is very humble and comes from a very quiet place inside my soul.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy..."

I had an amazing talk with my spiritual advisor over these last two weeks, and what he had to say really made me stop and think, and I spent much more time in meditation and prayer trying to digest it all. He wrote to me, after our talk..

"You take a year or two to develop this very special and unusual ministry that you have begun. Not Jesus, or Buddha, nor any great historical spiritual figure taught in robes of gold in temples. They walked amongst the people, eye to eye, hand to hand. Your home is like a monastery, your fellow "monks" are your animals. You are a Franciscan at heart, and you are still learning your way. It is right that you were ordained, it set you more firmly on your path, and, Mother Maitri -- and I think that name suits you well, because you are a gentle teacher, a motherly presence, a woman who is a healer and holy woman --- yes, you are a minister, but there is something more in store for you. Follow your heart. Meditate, pray, study, and write. Right now, your work, as it will be an outreach ministry over the internet and phone, e-mail and sometimes in person, sets you apart. Thank God for that in your prayers and don't question it. Be who you are Mother Maitri. Your instincts are good. Now go deep into retreat and seek the answers you need."

And into retreat I went. I went in so deeply for such long periods of time that it was as if I had entered another realm. The unseeable, the unknowable, the beginnings of the answers I need to lead me on this path. Now, re-entering the world, at least my daily world, part of that time seems like a dream and part of it I carry with me. Part of it was ephemeral and fleeting, but it left it's mark on me and I am deeply changed.

On Friday I went to my psychiatrist. I told her I wondered if my myriad symptoms, longsince medicated properly after 3 decades of therapy, wa causing me to see and feel what I was. She assured me, with a smile, that I was not crazy and none of my diagnoses had anything to do with what I am going through. Yes, I certainly have issues, but thank God I also have a good doctor and the medicine I need to keep me straight. She told me I was highly sensitive, and open, and willing to accept things that others won't allow themselves to see.

If you have ever talked to a psychic or medium (which I am not), and I mean a real, genuine one, of which there really are many, they will all tell you that the abilities that they have are not only not special, but that we all have the ability to open up to these things, they are within us, they are not hoodoo voodoo, simply a kind of second sight. We see through our souls. We are sensitive to the energies around us and we feel them. I feel them. I feel the presence of my spirit guides almost as if they were here with me having a cup of tea. I walk through my day saying, "Thank you," because I am so filled with gratitude for all that is opening up in me, in my worldly life and in my inner life, my subconscious mind spilling over into consciousness. There are more things on heaven and earth... I begin to see the unseen more and more.

As I go deeper and deeper in my studies, prayer, and meditation, I seek the root of all that is, meaning there may be many religions and traditions, but, as in the kaleidoscope analogy I used in a recent writing, all are rooted in the same source. Different earthly teachers have grown congregations and churches to the knowledge that they had gleaned, filtered through their own human life. I seek the common thread. I open my arms to all that is. And so I am a quiet woman, and I grow more humble each day.

I took the name Mother Maitri because I felt it a very humble name. I am a mother, and now that my children are grown, I feel it is my path to carry that motherly essence out into the world. To love, to heal, to teach, to put bandaids on broken hearts, and sew together souls that have had a hole torn in them, the air inside nearly completely gone, near the brink of collapse. I tell stories, I hold hands, I save ailing and elderly animals and nurse them back to a more vibrant life and shelter them and provide them a home. I have kept a Christmas tree alive until it starting forming little pine cones, and went on for nearly a year of use before it went into the woods, a haven for the wild ones outside.

This was a cut tree for Christmas, but after Christmas I planted it in a half barrel outside on my patio and kept it watered. The cold air and the water kept it green and it was truly enchanting. I put bird seed and suet in it's branches and it filled with birds. Only when the warm weather came did it dry out and die, and then I filled the barrel with morning glory and moonflower seeds, and the vines filled the little tree, and it lasted through the summer and into the fall, radiant with flowering vines lit by the sun, and the huge white moonflowers perfuming the air as I stood outside under the moon and the stars and thanked God for all that is. I live in a state of being wherein everywhere I look I see potent possibility abundant. Some people travel the world. I see paradise in my own back yard.

And so I will continue on this journey, and I will share with you what I see and experience. And you needn't believe what I write, as I, too, would not, at one time, have believed. But perhaps you can allow a little seed to be planted and ponder over it. You can draw your own conclusions. I am building a congregation, one person, animal, tree, acorn, blade of grass at a time. I see the glory in all things. I look to love and light to guide me, and while I pray for everyone I don't allow the shadows in the world to block me. If I allowed this to happen I could not see and do what I am supposed to, I could not help and heal and nurture.

And so dear reader, if you have read this far I hope you will have at least have kept an open mind, and as you go about your days, whisper thank you, even if you do not know whom you are thanking, or, perhaps, even what you are thanking this unseen being for. From this place of gratitude grows a fertile ground in which a seed, a life, may be planted and grow into something glorious. Or so I believe with my whole heart and soul.

I send the deepest blessings with my arms open wide to receive you, to give you love, and warmth, and gentleness, that you may carry it with you on your way and pass it on.

Each one, reach one. Those very words are at the heart of this ministry I am growing. Have faith in yourself, and keep moving forward. We are all walking the path together, some before us, some behind us, but all following the same worn path that many have walked for millennium. Believe in yourself. I believe in you. And you are in my prayers every day that I am on this earth for the rest of my life.

Go gently, and be well, and as I leave you for now I want you to remember 2 little words... Amor Fati... it means Love what is. Look long and with tenderness at everyone and everything around you. If you are love, you will draw love. Draw to you all the love you can