Last and Lasting

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Come unto me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble-hearted, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Seeker,
What do you leave behind for those coming after you?

As I grow down, creaking and groaning,
I find my (much-diminished) self,
ever-closer to the ground.

Bent a bit,
and increasingly inclined
to question rather than resolution,

I am more at home
with the lyrical than the literal 
in any and everything: rhyme without reason.

Truth, that once seemed
to fit so neatly
into my travelling haversack,

seems so much larger,
that I can no longer
get my heart, let alone my arms, around it.

Still, wisdom comes to visit,
gracing my committed incoherence
with room enough for wonder and woe to cohabit.

As tears flow more readily than reasons,
explanations evade me for the monstrous misery I witness;
swept away in a deluge of compassion.

What to tell my dear, growing-up children,
after over half a century of wondering and wandering;
looking back more frequently than ahead?

It sounds so simple and simply too hard;
that love is where they came from
and all that keeps us going.

as we live in the light and the love of those
who came before us…
…we will be remembered
in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.  David Whyte

And, with the evaporation of absolutes
in the harsh light of mercy,
judgement and dogma dissolve.

Though I can’t quite put my finger on it,
I think, somewhere I must have surrendered;
lost or let go these last illusions of control.

How frightening, to be so free;
lightly-burdened;
co-responsible for everything, yet in charge of nothing.

Could this be
the uncharted territory I always sought, 
while playing in the safe confines of the sandpit?

What now remains— last and lasting—
before the long slumber                                                                                                         envelops for good what stood for me.

Now, daily to marry grateful wonder with woe,
and find, in that blessed arrangement, stepping-stones
to help in my stumbling toward the wholeness called well-being.

May it be so for you, fellow pilgrim,
as you make your way home,
much more deeply into here; far less concerned with hereafter.

And in your seeking, may you be found
and found out, as a wise fool, whose supple heart,
cleaved by loss and love, may never close to mercy and mystery.

Rest and be thankful!

joe

Living Abundance

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
What keeps you grounded through the seasons of your life?

After decades of practice, studying the scales,
weights and measures of an integrated life,
I’ve let go of almost everything I once held.

The heart is stretched through suffering and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Thomas R. Kelly

For a while, my pantheon
housed an array of minor deities,
each vowing to carry me closer to fulfillment.

Disciplines of asceticism, rigor and repetition,
devotional ardor, meditation and mindfulness,
philosophical argument, right action and social concern…

…each took a turn on the podium,
pointing out pathways to perfection,
promising to uplift or nudge me further along.

Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution,
reality ever newborn; you who,
by constantly shattering our mental categories,
force us to go ever further and further
in our pursuit of the truth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Now, at home with ample weaknesses,
I am spreading wide,
slowing like an aged river.

My desire to savor life,
in its myriad emanations,
has become prayer.

And knowing we have a brief time
to walk the soft grass together,
I intend to take my time and share it generously.

When seeds germinate,
roots come first,
drawn by gravity to penetrate earth’s loamy heart.

In my ceaseless to-ing and fro-ing,
it is the grave
that draws me down.

Grave human realities
hold me here,
rooted in place and time.

Life seldom disappoints
if we are determined
to stay awake and engaged.

Whether in tatters at the losses of the day,
or smiling at my own awkward antics,
abundance awaits.

I am delighted
by the fragrant bounty of wild flowers,
or the aerial gymnastics of swallows, open-mouthed in the wind.

…when present in the moment, I view life more deeply,
I meet life through an awakened sensibility,
and I make more peaceful decisions…
Like all of us, I struggle
with trying to control what happens
and trying to participate in what happens. Mark Nepo

Gravity and levity, soul and spirit,
mind and body, wonder and woe…
there is room for this and more in a life slowly savored.

So, what makes for a well-lived life?
What is expected of us?
Haven’t we already been told?

The Holy One has told you, O mortal,
what is good; and what does the Almighty require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8

Gratitude is the motive for justice;
Mercy the courageous response to every situation;
Humility the honest pathway to fullness of humanity.

Abundant life reveals itself
the moment we cease
expecting, wanting, needing something else or more.

As we cycle through the mysteries
of living to die and dying to live,
may you take your time to suffer and savor with those you love.

joe

From Head to Heart

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (in everything).                    Matthew 5:8

Seeker,
Who helps clear a path out of your head and into the heart of our world?

Most of us
come into this world
head first;

the heart following the brain,
till at last
the feet emerge.

Our lifelong journey
toward wholeness
mirrors this top-down trajectory.

They say the head can be fooled
but the heart can’t turn
without the body. Mark Nepo

It starts in the head,
as we rake this world with reason,
desperate to be right, needing to be rewarded,

till those days when
wisdom and wounds
can muddle the mind with mystery.

Impenetrable graces,
masked as wonder or woe,
push the center deeper down.

Move from within.
Don’t move the way
fear wants you to. Rumi

Shedding the fear of being wrong (or punished),
unreasonable love takes the tiller
and, for a time, the heart holds sway.

The lures of love
and the magnetic draw of passion
pull us into one another (and out to every other).

Turned inside out,
we quiver with joyful exhilaration
and shiver at the severities of despair.

Rich in perspective, experienced in failure,
the person advanced in years
is capable of shedding prejudices
and the fever of vested interests. Abraham Heschel

Now exposed to losses
that shatter the soul,
sweet dreams sour in collision with reality.

Unbidden suffering emerges,
as love’s long shadow
casts our whole life in gloom.

Pains, violations, and desecrations in every corner,
enough to take the heart away,
tear at the ragged fringes of our lives.

Failure is life’s ballast. Huston Smith

Yet, here at last, we can make a friend of failure;
let it steady us while we step deeper
into the mire of holy humanity.

Walking, now with measured step,
in company with the low and slow,
we marinate in the wisdom of love-as-letting-go.

Finally, the feet can take us—
head and heart, body and soul—
where we’d always feared to wander.

Without mysticism politics soon become cruel and barbaric; without political love (justice) mysticism becomes sentimental and uncommitted interiority. Edward Schillebeeckx

Moored in muddiness; wrinkled by worry
and crinkled with laughter, we release absolutes
as we make our tear-stained truce with ambiguity.

Liberated from the tyrannies
of reason and fickle feelings,
barefoot, we walk this world.

Less sure, but surely more tender;
wonder, gratefulness and simple pleasures
come back to visit.

Justice, peace, compassion and sacred wisdom,
deeper than ideas, wider than feelings,
are now embedded in every daily dealing.

Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude,
where everything I touch is turned into prayer:
where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer,
the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all. Thomas Merton

May we embrace silence of mind,
solitude of heart, slowness of step;
that we might humbly walk with the frail and forgotten.

joe

Gracefully Grounded

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up, increasing and yielding thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.  Mark 4:8

Seeker,
When was the last time your soles graced the ground beneath your feet?

Daily, we tread
or trample
a lush carpet of life.

Upon this thin floor
of muddy vitality
the elements of our existence depend.

What disdainfully we call dirt
(as in dirty) or soil (as in soiled)
is actually the miracle beneath!

People usually consider walking on water or air a miracle.
But the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on earth.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Our given scriptural name
“ADAMAH” or “grounded one”,
describes our earthy roots.

“Human” reflects humble origins,
for we are “humus-beings”;
earthlings realized from sacred soil.

The Holy One formed “Adamah” from the dust of the ground, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7

Dirt is no dead thing.
Each topsoil ounce holds countless communities;
billions of invisible microorganisms.

One in four forms of life
on our planet
thrives in the dank recesses beneath our soles.

Unseen and unknown decomposers
recycle the necessary elements of life
till even deserts bloom in their season.

Earth purifies water, absorbs waste,
and, in the end, takes us all back
to remake our empty husk into a life-giver.

Source of nourishment,
sacred soil provides raw material for reality,
and cradles the bones of our ancestors.

Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Exodus 3:5

When walking the woods,
for the recovery of soul,
I cast my gaze upon the loamy litter scattered about me.

Such mucky wisdom, earthy lessons,
fruits and seeds of innumerable seasons,
lie strewn at my feet.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees takes off his shoes. Elizabeth Barret Browning

While briefly living along the Amazon,
I was awed by the community of crawlers
that cover every available centimeter of forest floor.

To this day, the aroma of wet leaves
carries me back
to my Amazonian epiphany—

from our insect planet
rooted in a thin film of mud,
every imaginable form of breathing life erupts;

from towering mahogany to scarlet macaws;
in over-abundance
we have yet to name.

In our fleeting lifespan we are gifted
with a multitude of graces
in three dimensions.

Illumined Grace gasps in wonder;
at sunsets, ocean vistas,
and misty mountain peaks.

Darker Graces visit us unbidden,
with the embrace of suffering;
the letting-go and losing of all we hold dear.

Then there is Earthed Grace
well-mixed into the messy buisness of living—
bounty revealed to the lowly, who live close to the ground.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

With dusty hands and muddied feet,
may you know gratitude for the blessing of being human,
graced to humbly walk God’s good garden.

joe