Today’s obsession with more

Today is the Feast of Saint Martin, traditionally a big day of celebration in all countries around Europe and the start of a period of fasting and preparation for Christmas. It was the last day of harvest celebrations and the following days saw a period of simplification and slowing down. Less, rather than more, was seen as the way to keep our bodies and minds in harmony with natural rhythms at this time of year.

The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327), the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition.

Yet I think most Christians today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition. The capitalist worldview is the only one most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, and things — in fact, everything — as objects for our personal consumption. Even religion…worship services, and meritorious deeds become ways to advance ourselves…The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Religion looks good on my résumé, and anything deemed “spiritual” is a check on my private worthiness list. 

Richard Rohr, Radical Grace

A letting go practice

November is the month of letting go of what is no longer needed or has fulfilled its purpose, just as trees now release the last season’s leaves. In China, an old proverb speaks to this: “Give away, throw away or move 27 items for nine days and your life will change.” The practice of letting go teaches us about non-attachment. The process of releasing or emptying provides room for new possibilities, opportunities, and blessings to enter our lives. In November we can readily see how much we have to be thankful for compared to our troubles and dissatisfactions. As we extend gratitude for the bounty and goodness that are present in our lives, any pockets of ingratitude that once seemed large in our imaginations become dwarfed- nearly nonexistent. 

Angeles Arrien 1940 – 2014, Cultural anthropologist.

In our darkest night

No seed ever sees the flower.

Zen saying

 November is the beginning of Winter in the Celtic Calendar and so today signals the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. The balance between light and darkness continues to shift. In the northern hemisphere the earth becomes colder and nature more dormant. Similar processes can occur in our lives. For example, we can choose to go with the rhythm of nature and become more reflective in this period, slowing down and simplifying things. Or our lives can have parts that seem dormant and not going anywhere. Or maybe difficulties are occurring which can seem dark and we see no escape.  However, darkness does not mean that nothing is happening.  I really like this saying from the Zen tradition – things that are now hidden or buried will eventually be seen or bear fruit.  That what is now just germinating will be full of life in time. As humans we like to see immediate results. However, for now, all we can do is wait and trust. Peace comes from knowing the right way to let go. 

Not complicated but complex

Real life is not complicated but it is rich and complex,

and always has some element of mystery and what is not known.

Sometimes problems arise when we think it should all be straightforward.

There is no paradise,

no place of true completion

that does not include within its walls the unknown.

Jane Hirshfield

Holding all in our heart

More thoughts prompted by recent weather events….

Yesterday all exterior talk was of storms and wind and damage. Interior talk was of loss and holding onto to what really has worth.

What if we allowed our hearts to keep opening, even in the face of storms and uncertainty, until our hearts were big enough to fit all experiences inside?

We could learn to stop when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up. We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves, and we could realize that it’s sad. The sadder it is, and the vaster it is, the more our heart opens. We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.

Pema Chödrön