Many native cultures believe that the heart is the bridge between Father Sky and Mother Earth. For these traditions, the ‘four-chambered heart,’ the source for sustaining emotional and spiritual health, is described as being full, open, clear, and strong. These traditions feel that it is important to check the condition of the four-chambered heart daily, asking: ‘Am I full-hearted, open-hearted, clear-hearted, and strong-hearted?’
Angeles Arrien 1940 – 2014, Cultural anthropologist.
Allow your life to unfold naturally.
Just as you breathe in and breathe out, there is a time for being ahead and a time for being behind; a time for being in motion and a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous and a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe and a time for being in danger.
The black birds feeding in the garden yesterday morning stood out clear against the snow, and they brought to mind this poem.
The snow went on to melt quickly. More lessons from life’s weathers. Transition and change are inevitable parts of the human experience. This time of year, as the days shorten, and the themes of Advent remind us that we are always between here and there, we work at re-imagining and making space, at being at ease in a moment that is always both an ending and a beginning.
Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again
on an open sky.
has to be
so you can find
the one line
Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out
someone has written
in the ashes of your life.
You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.
David Whyte, The Journey
A blanket of light snow this morning.
Life is movement, and continually changing in ways which we cannot anticipate:
Your soul alone has the map of your future,
therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself.
If you do, it will take you where you need to go,
but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.
John O Donohue, Anam Chara
Another storm passing over parts of Ireland today: high winds, then cold and snow. A good metaphor for our life. Sometimes we are subject to cold winds from an unexpected direction:
Being tossed and turned by circumstances is part of life’s weather. You may trip on obstacles, hurting someone you love. You may find yourself alone, without the person with whom you thought you’d spend the rest of your life.
How do we meet these challenges?
For me, I try to remember, when breaking, that every crack is an opening. No matter how harsh the experience, something is always opened within us; and what is opened is always more important than what breaks us. We might experience cruelty or unfairness or indifference or the brutality of chance — all of which are difficult and life-changing. And while cruelty and injustice are never excusable and need to be rectified, we must not get stuck in our list of legitimate grievances, or we will never be able to enter the depth that becomes available for being open.
It’s hard to keep this deeper understanding of life in view when in pain, when in fear, when confused and worried. But this is the nature of being broken. “To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” This notion has been a profound teacher for me in meeting difficulty. Though it’s understandable to be consumed with what we’re going through, it’s essential to remember that all of life is not where we are. In fact, this is when we need the aliveness and vitality of everything that is not us. When closed, we need to open. When fearful, we need to trust again. When feeling lost, we need to remember that we are in the stream of life, which is never lost.
Mark Nepo, What to Do When You’re Broken
A deeper feeling – a sense of groundlessness or loneliness – is normal in humans, and part of meditation practice is learning to sit with this. Advent, when a lot of running around is encouraged, is a good time to notice the energies connected with this.
The restlessness of our inner abyss. Pope Francis, Church of the Gesù, Jan 2014
As I look out at the world, I see that a lot of us are just running around in circles pretending that there’s ground where there actually isn’t any ground. And that somehow, if we could learn to not be afraid of groundlessness, not be afraid of insecurity and uncertainty, it would be calling on an inner strength that would allow us to be open and free and loving and compassionate in any situation. But as long as we keep trying to scramble to get ground under our feet and avoid this uneasy feeling of groundlessness and insecurity and uncertainty and ambiguity and paradox, any of that, then the wars will continue. It’s like the matrix of creative potential. The matrix of the spiritual life. It’s like if we could rest there, which I suppose would be the description of enlightenment or the mystic, you know. Rest in that place, and is completely happy.
Pema Chodron, Interview with Bill Moyers, Faith and Reason, 2006