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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

Listen: Become Available

Become Available

My smartphone chimed, indicating a new text message. I read four words, “How was your day?” Pausing, the simple sentence evoked a multitude of emotions, sensations, and thoughts. I stood still, surprised. Primary was the realization that it has been a very long time since I’d been the recipient of this gentle question, a genuine invitation to reflect and share, four simple words conveying interest and care.

Our conversations and communication with each other are often functional, relaying data and details: I’ll meet you at …., When is …?, I need …., How about …?, Where is …?, and so forth. The text, How was your day? queried me, posed a reflective question, evoked my response, and began a mutual conversation and exchange that held potential to grow intimacy and friendship. When we communicate and interact with each other, a flow of energy and presence brings forth expansion or contraction.

I had a choice in my response to that text message—I could share about the productivity or pleasures of the day, or my concerns and fatigue, or a dozen other details. My desire was to be utterly available to my best self, and to the person asking the question. To become available means to be able to avail ourselves on behalf of someone, or something. It is a choice that involves intention, willpower, and decision. Sometimes to be available involves risk and takes courage. Being available generates connection and ultimately involves both giving and receiving.

In the beginning of Aleph, a provocative new novel by author Paulo Coelho, the main character prepares to make a journey, and visits a chapel. Coelho writes, “There I asked Our Lady to guide me with her love and help me identify the signs that will lead me back to myself. I know that I am in all the people surrounding me, and that they are in me. Together we write the Book of Life, our every encounter determined by fate and our hands joined in the belief that we can make a difference in this world. Everyone contributes a word, a sentence, an image, but in the end it all makes sense: the happiness of one becomes the joy of all” (21).

When we pause, on behalf of our own soul stirrings, on behalf of another person, or when stirred by empathy, compassion, or injustice, we evoke the inner spaciousness to become available. To be available allows healing, wholeness, connection, and joy to birth in the cosmos. I imagine a world where every day we make the time to pause and ask, How was your day? or How are you? to someone dear to us, or to a complete stranger. And then show up, and listen.

A spiritual companion might ask these kinds of questions during spiritual direction, opening a pathway of conversation, and allowing a listening presence to flow within and between both the listener and the speaker. When asked with sincerity, these genuine, evocative questions heal, and lead each of us to our authentic self, mystery, and ultimately write the book of our life.

— Pegge Erkeneff

Reprinted from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, 6.4 page 1 (Spiritual Directors International © 2012). Reprinted with permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a subscription of Listen, call 1-425-455-1565 or go to http://www.sdiworld.org.

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Cultivating Compassion: Good, Enough

A young person, mid-twenties, whom I accompany as a soul-friend asked, “You’re saying it’s possible I’m good enough just the way I am? That’s hard for me to believe. How come we never hear that message?” That conversation was two years ago during a telephone spiritual guidance exchange. I have not forgotten the question or my response.

Outer, external voices seek to influence and define our inner reality, informing us how we think and feel, what we expect and desire. We receive messages about how to appear through the way we dress and what we say, and even where our social action should—or shouldn’t—be placed. Images, words, and encounters can come from the media, strangers, or people we share a home with. The truth is, most of these words do not ring with accuracy. No one can define our inner reality, our own lived experience. It is a form of abuse when this occurs—a stealing of another person’s unique identity, personality, and a loss of the opportunity to validate dreams, hopes, fears, or life-given purpose and gifts.

Spiritual direction or spiritual guidance is a place and time to validate, explore, and discover the powerful human experience of connection, healing, and love.

That evening on the telephone I encouraged, “Perhaps you are good enough. Just like this, right now. You are, and I am. We all are. No matter the circumstance. Certainly we can always be better, and there is value in striving for more. But, today, right now, maybe you are good, enough.” With this particular seeker, questions about God or the Sacred Other was not part of our conversation. A deep sense of judgment and abandonment had created an angry soul-wound. My role was to put skin on compassion and care.

A few days after the conversation, I recalled “Wild Geese” a favorite poem by Mary Oliver from Dream Works (1994). Her opening lines shocked me. I invite you to tumble Oliver’s insight into your heart and body:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

It is time to announce our place in the world, invite others in out of the cold to break bread, gather at our table, in our communities, at the workplace, in our schools, places of worship, and in our sacred circles. There is enough when we share with love. Let us love what we love, and love one another with welcoming presence. We all belong. This starting place is good, enough.

Reflect

  • Do I give myself permission to love what I love, feel what I feel?
  • Who can I invite in out of the cold to join me at my table?
  • What healing and hope can emerge through my heart of compassion and thanksgiving?
  • Am I good, enough?
  • Do I know when to say, “enough.”

— Pegge Erkeneff,
Excerpted from Listen: A Seekers Guide to Spiritual Direction, April 2012, vol. 6.2, published by Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org.

Poetry Inspires Life Dance

Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, California

Are you passionate about being alive?

Words and rhythm grab me. I realize I’ve always enveloped this perspective, even as a pigtailed girl on the lookout for ladybugs. I never want to become jaded and bitter, sightless. I want to wake up with fresh eyes every day, orientate toward appreciation, and know that the world conspires with us and for us, not against us. I seek meaning and significance in the ordinary.
Maybe you think and feel the same way I do.

Poetry opens portals to appreciation, to seeing. The shape of words in my mouth, together with images and sensation in my body guide and provoke aliveness. Some poets have a particular gift of vision. Mary Oliver is tops in my world. I discovered her when I attended the University of California, Irvine, and enrolled in a poetry class with professor and poet Michael Ryan. That was eighteen years ago. I relish every one of her books, period.

Oliver’s book, Evidence: Poems arrived to me in Alaska this week. I am slowly inhaling the pages. I’ve belly-laughed—startling my dogs. I’ve wept. With very few words, Oliver paints reality. Her artistry accompanies me in my workshop preparation for “Learning to Trust Love” that will be offered at WOMENSPEAK 2010, an international gathering of women in Mobile, Alabama, March 12-14, 2010 .

I share this poem, and encourage you to discover poets that inspire a life dance in you.

Prayer
May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risqué.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.

–Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems, 2010

This is my prayer, too. I want to “dance for the world.”
What prays alive in you?
Who are the poets that accompany you?

God … Any Time, Any Place?

Ask: “What are the little, very personal, and even ordinary things I do to connect with God … that I may never talk to anyone else about?”

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Blogging for HoustonBelief.com

The undeniable power of technology now bridges time and place. This is significant to me.

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