What makes life beautiful?

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Some reflections from Brother Roger of Taize who I once met when I spent a silent retreat there. He was a good and kindly man, and outlines here an approach which can shape our whole attitude to this day and to life:

Are there realities which make life beautiful

and of which it can be said that they bring a kind of fulfillment, an inner joy?

Yes, there are. And one of these realities bears the name of trust.

Do we realize that what is best in each of us is built up through a simple trusting?

This is something even a child can do.

Br Roger of Taize

photo nicor

A guide for all of life: Don’t try to control the sunset

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One of the most growth-promoting experiences for another person  comes from my appreciating this individual in the same way that I appreciate a sunset. People are just wonderful as sunsets if I can let them be. In fact, perhaps the reason we can truly appreciate a sunset is that we cannot control it. When I look at a sunset as I did the other evening, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a little on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color.” I don’t do that. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.

Carl Rogers

photo Mmcbeth

When things are dark in our lives

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In Buddhism, a definition of faith is the ability to keep our hearts open in the darkness of the unknown. The root of the word patience is a Latin verb for “suffer,” which in the ancient sense meant to hold, not to grasp but to bear, to tolerate without pushing away. Being patient doesn’t mean being passive. It means being attentive, willing to be available to what is happening, going on seeing, noticing how things change. When we aren’t wishing for something to be over, or when we aren’t freezing around an idea about what it is we are seeing, we see and hear more. We notice that nature has cycles, that each day is not the same length and quality, and that darkness passes. The meaning of life, the real purpose of our presence here, is being attentive, being willing to go on seeing and keeping our hearts open — not just for our sake but for the sake of others. We make ourselves available to life, opening our hearts to the passing flow of it, knowing we will blunder and get it wrong but sometimes right.

Tracy Cochran (with thanks to make believe boutique) 

photo NCCo

Today, do small things well…

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Focus on the details of everyday life with fresh eyes. Moments of joy and presence….

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickenson

photo barbara walsh

We are always in transition

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In the old Celtic/Gaelic calendar February 1st is the start of Spring, which, in the very mild winter we are having this year, seems right.  It was the Celtic feast of Imbolc,  falling midway between the winter and spring solstices, a celebration of fertility and growth involving the lighting of fires. In the Christian calendar this became Lá Fhéile Bríde, St Brigid’s Day, and maintained some of the same fertility themes in the folk traditions.  Similarly today, the feast of Candlemas, saw the blessing of candles for use in the home. It would seem that there was a need for people to remind themselves of warmth and light at this halfway point, as a reminder that new growth will soon be here.

At different times, I too find myself at midway points, not quite sure where I am arriving, but too far away from where I started from to recognize it and go back. We have no overall map for this journey; we may not even have a candle, lose our sense of direction and easily get lost. As Dante found, it’s as if we are “midway in this way of life we’re bound upon …. in a dark wood, where the right road was wholly lost and gone”. The trick may be to work with the experience of being lost  without believing the story that we actually are, not letting “how I feel” become the story of “who I am”. This keeps our energy joyful on the journey, not hooked by stories of where we should be. 

Things are always in transition if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we would like to dream about.  The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Hard times.

Sunday Quote: Listen

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Very mild weather in Ireland these days. Even the daffodils are starting to bloom. Quiet signs of growth and hope everywhere. Better to listen to these than to the angry voices all round.

The silence of creation will speak louder

than the tongues of men or angels.

Thomas Merton

photo paul gilmore