Thursday, July 31, 2008

I noticed something for the first time

I noticed something for the first time yesterday. Visitors to this house (my oldest brother's, which is rather like the family home), and there is a fairly regular stream 0f them, are able to sit with whoever is at silence!

In all the years I had been a living-in member of this family, we have had people, from close friends to acquaintances, drop in at various times of the day and evening. Whoever is home does whatever s/he can to make them feel welcome and our visitors always do. We have treated them both as guest and as family. And although conversations may have begun animatedly at times, and tentatively at others, they continued meaningfully and in a personal yet sensitive way, often interspersed with periods of quiet - phases in which those present simply shared silence. This has been true for as far back as I can remember.

But yesterday, I actually noticed the shared silence for the first time, having taken it for granted so many times before. And it felt familiar. It felt intimate. It felt so comfortable, so tender, so sacred.

Because in the school of the Spirit
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting, how to speak
by silence, how to live by dying.

By Johannes Tauler from

My heart continues to thrill in the memory of shared silence!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

That window in my heart

What change! I am, at what I still refer to as, 'home' although I first left it over thirty years ago! Since then, I have visited, on average, once every two to three years. Yet, it remains a place of strong sentiments, triggered by memories that awaken unpredictably.

Voices, smells, scenes that I rush past in a moving car, a name mentioned here, family friends who drop by without warning, certain that they are always welcome, and they are of course... All these and more remind me of a time and place and family that are no more, in some sense, yet by no means lost. They are all there, every bit of them, in the secure vaults of my memory, released, from time to time, by daily moments.

I watch my oldest brother, a shadow of his former self following an operation several months ago to remove a tumour in his brain. I watch his inability to care for himself or to speak for himself. I watch as he is fed and cleaned and changed by a number of caring, competent hands. I watch as he is prompted to speak and answer questions as if a child. I watch as if I had expected to see all this. I watch as I become aware that regardless of my expectations, I have been shocked and I am deeply, deeply saddened.

I find myself resisting old memories, fearing that they will only make the difference between what was and what is simply too unbearable. It is better, I say to myself, to remain right here and now. And mostly I do. But in the two days that I have been here, I have sobbed in the confines of our daily family prayer. This has been the only time when the gulf between Life Was and Life Is has stretched so far that it has torn the heart which holds all three.

How can the human being have such indignity enforced on it? How can what so majestically was have become so unceremoniously is? And yet, these moment to moment displays of tenderness, caring, patience, unconditional love, encouragement, faith...where do these come from, if not from that same gulf which separates was and is? It is as if a window has appeared in my heart and through it, I see god in many forms.

Listen, open a window to God
and begin to delight yourself
by gazing upon Him through the opening.
The business of love is to make that window in the heart,
for the breast is illumined by the beauty of the Beloved.
Gaze incessantly on the face of the Beloved!
Listen, this is in your power, my friend!

Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nature's Elements deifying Me

"I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top over against my house, from day-break to sun-rise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements!"

From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson at

How, indeed, does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements"!

I was speaking to a friend on the phone this morning and in the middle of our conversation, I heard what sounded like the cheerful chatter of birds all the way across two suburbs! I interrupted to check if it was in fact as I thought. "Yes, it is", she said. I could hear the bright smile in her voice, delighting in this 'cheap element' of Nature's that we were able to share at the one time!

The call of birds often brings my mind back from its incessant wanderings to the here and now, interrupting its unproductive preoccupations with a gentle reminder that here and now is where the fullness of my life comes into its own.

Right here and now, as I type this post, I am still aware of the mild anxieties incurred as I have prepared for my month long trip overseas. I am hesitant to call it a holiday, perhaps because the various 'matters' that I am leaving behind and which I will have to attend to upon my return still sit close to my chest (almost literally). They are not life-shattering matters but they are life-influencing ones, such as tax returns and accommodation and income and animal friends.

For a month, I shall be physically away from all these concerns. To what extent I'll be able to remain mentally and emotionally distanced from them is something that my intentions will determine.

So I intend now to let it all lie quietly until I return. I intend now to remain 'here and now' while I am overseas!

I feel lighter now and there is a smile on my face. Something has lifted. I have shifted from what 'has been' to what is becoming as I intend it! There is hardly a sound of birds and the sound of my typing is the loudest sound around.

Ah, now I hear it, the evening call of a pigeon - ooo -oo. And another call of another bird. Three notes, this one. And the soft shadows that fall as the first star of the evening appears, heralding no doubt the arrival of the moon. All of this in constant greeting of the god that I am. I return the same greeting to each in recognition of the god that each is. Truly Namaste!

And truly, Nature's elements deifying me!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yielding to daily Graces

One of my great longings is to write that piece of prose that will lodge itself in the hearts of many, filling them with sweet enchantment, thrilling them in unimaginable ways to leave them drowning irredeemably in love! Could anything be better? Not much, I don't think!

"An enchanted life has many moments when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and the imagination is electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within a thing, a place or a person. Enchantment may be" ~ Henry Louis Mencken

There exists for each of us a state of consciousness that is enchantment itself. It is the enchantment of the child, suffused with wonderment and thrill. I long for it. No, I don't mean in a way that holds me back from engaging with life and all its shadow play. I do partake as fully as I can in the creative work of staying alive as well as I know how to. But what I long for are those runaway moments when, rather unexpectedly and to my breath-taking delight, I find myself in the softness and freshness of new life, a new form of beauty, disarmingly so!

Perhaps this is why I so love softly, falling rain. It seems to caress life forms, blessing each one indiscriminately. You know it, I'm sure.

Yesterday, I sat in bed with my laptop, as I have been doing in these recent wintry days, working away, stopping often to watch the rain fall upon the native just outside my bedroom. I am certain the green leaves on it looked even greener and the raindrops suspended from their tips were priceless diamonds. I knew the 'diamonds' would disappear in time, but while they lasted, I remained enthralled.

Water has this way of enveloping you so completely, it's silly to resist! What could be more intimate? Air, which we take so much for granted, is just as complete in his embrace. It is these moments of recognizing and yielding to daily graces that I long for. They leave me feeling full of something. I think they call it life.