Slo-o-ow down

Who would know that it is Saturday? One day rolls into another. Hey, it’s a bit like retirement! What does corona-sheltering mean for retirees? More of the same. Intensive retirement. Moving from you don’t have to do much to you can’t do anything. You thought you’d already slowed down a lot? Well, you can slow down even more. Those frequent trips to the grocery store and library, just for a change of scenery and stimulation? They’re not happening anymore. Dinner parties? Uh-uh. No church. No meetings. No spontaneous trips to see the grandkids, let alone flights to far places.

The effect of this diminished possibility, for me, is a kind of soothing inertia. Continue reading

Shift happening

I don’t know if I can take you on this journey with me. Things are moving so fast. Let me see if I can sum up what I’ve learned, what I’ve come to believe, in the past week or so. The change in my thinking has been breathtakingly fast because these ideas are not really new to me; they have just been presented in a way that makes a great deal of sense, and in a way that makes sense of what I have long felt and suspected and been confused about. Continue reading

These things happen

I spent Mother’s Day afternoon at a funeral home. The visit stretched into several hours because of two things. The person who had passed away was well known and much loved and so the reception line to offer condolences to his widow was long and moved slowly. And then, after my husband and I had greeted the widow, we had extended conversations with the deceased’s father, mother, and aunt. We were, in fact, at the visitation because of the parents and aunt, who have been dear to us for a long time. Continue reading

A mystic in trouble

Why do I even do this? I ask myself several times a day when I am tending Congo matters. How did I get myself into this difficult situation, who am I to be doing this? But the question is always rhetorical, not because I know the answer to it but because I know I will keep doing whatever it is I am doing, even though it is difficult. The situation I’ve gotten myself into is exactly where I want/need to be, even though it isn’t always pleasant.

But I try to address the question head-on every now and then because motives and reasons can sneak around and bite you in the back if you don’t keep an eye on them. They do keep changing, even if your actions remain outwardly the same. If you aren’t aware of the changes you can start lying to yourself, unwittingly, and that is never good. The better side of this is that as time goes on motives may become clearer, and it is always rewarding, always a good thing, to understand yourself better, to understand what is happening to you that causes you to behave in the way you do.

The situation I am referring to is that I continue to take a very active interest in a particular Christian community in perhaps the poorest country in the world, a country ridden by impossible conflicts, though those conflicts are largely outside the territory of this community. So, it’s not because I think I can do anything about the chaos and suffering in eastern Congo. It’s not, in fact, because I think I can do anything about any kind of suffering in Congo, including the suffering of poverty. Relieving suffering is not my motivating force, not what calls me, although it may be a blessed side effect of some things I do.

I do hope not to create more suffering for others though that, too, can be a side effect. So maybe I will create suffering, unpleasant as that may be for me to witness, because suffering is necessary for growth. I’m finding this in my own case and who am I to say growth should be easy for other people? I am suffering a little right now, asking myself, why do I even do this? Because it isn’t easy; it is, in fact, sometimes agonizing.

Early on what got me into the Congo thing, which has intensified over the last year and a half, was a combination of nostalgia (for a previous experience in the distant past), love of beauty (Congo Cloth), and serendipity: the unfolding of a series of circumstances that came together in quick succession, making certain actions and developments seem right.

Then, quickly, it came to be about relationships. When you start relating to a new group of friends, become involved in a new network, certain things become possible and certain things are asked of you and you respond. Relationships require communication and lead, inevitably, to responsibility but they are also sustaining. So I can say that I need this new group of friends; that they are becoming like another very extended family for me, creating warmth and home and familiarity in ways I could not have imagined two years ago.

But none of this gets at the big, mysterious Why. Why Congo, why me, why now?

I could put it down to feeling called. It is that for sure, but the answer does not satisfy me so why should it satisfy you? I have done a lot in my life without the (maybe sometimes dangerous) certainty that goes with feeling called, and so I don’t think a sense of call is necessary to compel me to do odd things like work for nuclear disarmament or wrack my brains over environmental policy. But I have done these things out of a similar combination of circumstance, attraction, relationship, responsibility, and mystery. And with the similar frustrations and agony that come with doing anything difficult (even apparently impossible).

The common thread here seems to be, “difficult things.” Why do I repeatedly go for the difficult, the impossible? It seems to be in my DNA, but it is also a result of how I live, that is, by such airy methods as prayer and paying attention to dreams, and in an everlasting quest for wisdom (knowing I will never have enough of it to make sense of myself, let alone the world). These difficult situations are the practical results, for me, of living as a mystic.

Living as a mystic gets me into difficulties. I get focused on something and can’t turn away. Prayer and dreams trick me into taking bold steps that make no logical sense. But living as a mystic also gets me through difficulties. It does not, believe me, keep me from making mistakes. The mistakes, however, usually get transformed into wisdom and learning, and correcting them requires more bold moves in a good direction. Away from fear, toward love. That movement, propelled by spiritual power, is what it is all about.

Mystics, unite! The world needs us, getting down and dirty, getting into trouble.

Wisdom v. struggle

photo by Nina B. Lanctot

For the third time in the last 12 months I have gotten the Wisdom v. Struggle essence in the personal blend my daughter prepares for me intuitively.

How many terms should I unpack and explain before I go on? “Essence” refers to a preparation an herbalist (in this case Merri Walters of Great Lakes Sacred Essences) makes from flowers or under the influence of places or celestial events. Essences have energetic properties linked to healing and influencing human emotions and development.

“Personal blend.” My daughter sometimes makes individualized blends of these essences for people who request them.

“Intuitively.” She makes her choices based on the energetic sensations she receives at the moment, from individual bottles in her collection, not on her knowledge of what the individual might need. Whatever the mysterious process involves, it works. The blends she makes for me are always spot-on, appropriate, revelatory.

I experience these personal blends as catalysts. They make things happen in my life and psyche that need to happen. They are not always soothing but they help produce profound, necessary change. The plants, rocks, and waters they represent have become my allies on my life journey.

So when “Wisdom v. Struggle,” drawn from the waters of Lake Superior, shows up three times in a row out of several hundred possibilities, I pay attention.

I like the first part of Merri’s description of this essence’s properties:

This essence is for those who are truly ready to see, who are no longer afraid of the unknown but are ready to sit peacefully and watch the great mysteries unfold… longer distracted by the irritations of this plane…..profound peace, the doorway to initiation and the mysteries of the cosmos.

Yes, yes, that’s me! I’m there, baby.

But she goes on:

This essence can also be extremely helpful to those who are still caught up in struggle, who seek wisdom, seek depth, seek to know the truths of all time but as they find themselves in perfection ~ their hearts desire ~ they become preoccupied by the flies that are there too.

Alas, that is also me. I am often preoccupied by flies.

The gray brown chill of November. The roofer who took our deposit and disappeared. My husband’s absence on my birthday. The prospect of a difficult conversation with a friend. Climate change. Whether the turkey that’s been in the freezer for a year will be all dried out and I should get another one for Thanksgiving. A low-energy day.

(What is it about the state of the world and the small disturbances of everyday life that makes these things weigh heavily, and equally, on a given day?)

On Saturday I asked for a special early birthday celebration, a visit to Jasper-Pulaski State Park an hour and a half away in Indiana to see the migrating Sandhill Cranes.

The cranes come through this area every year on their arduous trips, feeding and socializing for several months in the area. They gather by the thousands at dusk in large pastures in the park, where you can watch flocks soaring in just before sunset, a great bird O’Hare Field at rush hour. They socialize there for a little while then lift up en masse, sometime after dark, to roost in nearby marshes. They sleep with their feet in cold water. They get together in the pastures again at sunrise.

We watched the cranes flying in until we couldn’t stand up anymore, then ceded our choice viewing spot on the platform to people who were crowding in behind us, gabbling like cranes. Look at that. There come some more. And more! See that big bunch! See how they put their feet down. Ah, ahh, zoom zoom! They make it look so easy.

I thought of Wisdom v. Struggle. I thought of how I wanted to live like a crane, soaring with the thermals, landing on my feet, hanging out with the community. Following the journey where it takes me.

Sunrise. Photo by Nina B. Lanctot