Monthly Archives: July 2020

To Ask Permission

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that answer the biggest questions. Maybe that’s why, even when they’re right in front of us, they can often be overlooked, seem too simplistic, even frivolous. And, sometimes, those answers can even come before the questions. Such a time happened just recently on wilderness walks with my grandchildren—something we hadn’t been able to do since the pandemic hit. First was with my five–year–old grandson I affectionately call One Sock.

“Grandma! Let’s go look for treasures!” he said bounding down the slope of our wilderness camp with his special treasure bag close in hand. “Look at all these acorns Grandma! Can we put them on the mantel?” The fireplace mantel has become our designated place for all those special objects found on the land.

“Of course, One Sock,” I answered and then bent down to whisper softly in his ear, “But, did you remember to ask permission?” His wide bright eyes shot up at me and with a voice filled with such sweet tenderness, full of expectation, looked down at those acorns, waiting still and silent in this small hand, and said, “Do you want to come with us acorns? Do you want to be on the mantel?” And in less than half a second, “Yes! Grandma! They said yes!” And off we went again in search of the next treasure, and the next, always repeating the same ritual we’d done so many times in the wonderful wilds of his own back yard. And, soon, he was struggling to haul his small bag filled with all those treasures.

A little later, my eight–year–old granddaughter, whom I call Sweetness, and I were walking down our steep winding wilderness driveway. She wanted to hold hands as we walked and just the feeling of her small hand in mine was enough to make me blink back tears. It had been so long. We strolled slowly as she just chatted about this and that. Didn’t matter to me. I just wanted time to stand still.

Then, suddenly, “Look at all these pine cones, Grandma! Can we bring some to the mantel?”

“Should we ask permission, Sweetness?”

My dear granddaughter, now a little older and more wise to the ritual, said with much assurance, “Grandma! I’ve already asked all the pine cones around this whole place and they’ve all already said ‘yes!’”

“How wonderful,” I said smiling and on we went. And, then suddenly . . . 

“Look Grandma! There’s a big heart rock!” I strained to see it but, sure enough, off to the side, partially hidden under leaves and moss, was a large—well, somewhat, heart shaped large rock just waiting for one with–the–eyes–to–see. “Let’s sit Grandma! It’s too big for the mantel,” she said matter–of–factly, “but, don’t worry, we can still sit here. I know it’s okay. I’ve already asked for permission.” And, so we did.

And, once again, graciously, time stood still to hold the brief moment of sweet chatter.

And, sometimes, those answers come even before the questions. Native American spirituality as well as the Shamans, medicine men and women across cultures since the beginning of time, have known about the great web of life within which we all live. They have taught that everything in this great web is alive, interconnected and that we humans are just another part of this great web. Today we are witnessing a great resurgence in these ancient teachings because, I believe, our blessed earth is crying out for us to remember our ancient roots, our innate connectedness with all of life. But I know for me, just imagining what I may be able to do to address our current climate–earth crisis has felt almost too overwhelming even to ponder. But then an answer came on those walks—something so small, simple, playful, childlike that it was almost overlooked. I could simply ask:   

Did you remember to ask permission?

Pause. Remember. Imagine how it might shift our relationship with our Great Mother earth if we were to suddenly see, hear, taste, touch, smell every living thing as alive, worthy of our respect, worthy of our asking permission. Imagine what we could learn, as the great George Washington Carver discovered, if we too could love enough—from each acorn, pinecone, stone. What if we could suddenly sense the Great Spirit growing the tree, cooing the mourning dove, budding the dandelion, stirring the waters, raising the fire? What if we too could hear the voice of the wind whispering important messages to our hearts? What if we too could suddenly see that everything around us is a treasure worthy of a special place on the mantel?

And what if, as a result, feeling so deeply connected to each treasure it would become naturally impossible to harm it for, like hurting anything to which we’re deeply connected, we’d be the first to feel it.    

And, how could such a deep connection to our Mother Earth begin to change not just our relationship to our mineral, plant and animal friends but to our fellow human friends as well? Perhaps it would bring us to rest, more often, in simple stillness and presence, like on that heart shaped rock, to truly feel tenderly the small hand holding ours and to sense the deep joy of connection running deep beneath the sweet chatter. Could we then begin to imagine what might happen if we could practice bringing such presence to a stranger, a member of our human family in this great web of life?

Perhaps, if so, we too could then know the love Carver knew. For this love is no ordinary love—at least not the kind we’re used to thinking about. No! This love is so unconditional, so free of circumstance, so eternally neutral that it is capable of binding us to all of life—freeing us in ways we’ve yet to imagine to love and care for the stones, flowers, animals and for all of our dear loved ones in our human family.     

Yes, my friends. Far beyond any teachings I may offer, degrees I may have, books I may write, I have graciously been given an answer to how I may make a difference to the web of life in my lifetime.  

Did you remember to ask permission?

So, perhaps, just perhaps, one day, long after I am gone, one of my dear grandchildren, grown and walking with their own children or grandchildren, might say, “Let’s go look for treasures! But, remember it’s important to ask if they want to come with us.”

If so, I will know I have done one thing well—perhaps the most important thing I could offer—I’ll have helped my dear grandchildren to remember that they are a part of all that is—that everything is a treasure if we have the eyes to see—that everything can teach us if we have the ears to hear—and that we are each a glorious, unique and necessary part of the great web of life woven most graciously by the Great Spirit . . .

And, if so, I know I will have lived well.  

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The Spirit of Place and Three Feathers

How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite. And what is the Infinite? It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies. Dr. George Washington Carver

We are used to thinking of one another as spirit beings. Many of us see our beloved animals as spirit partners. Fewer may recognize the flowers and stones as spirit beings. Fewer still may know that places, too, have a spirit essence. Just a couple of days ago, I walked into our old Tree of Life space to leave my keys. Luckily, I was alone in the space so I took the time to really feel being there as I knew it would be the last time. I walked into the front half of our sanctuary, which was my first office many years ago, and where the connection with Dick the barber began and the subsequent three grace-filled experiences with the Mother Teresa rosary. [I tell the first story in An Ordinary Life Transformed: Lessons for Everyone from the Bhagavad Gita, pp. 153-4, the second on my blog, The Mother Teresa Rosary: The Next Chapter, and the third on my blog, Gratia Plena.] And I thought about how the space had become a part of our Temple’s first sanctuary all these years later. I stood a long while and offered a deep, sweet, prayer of thanksgiving to the spirit of that place.

Then, I wondered into my old mentoring room and lovingly remembered all the seminarians with whom I’d been blessed to sit. There, too, I laid my heart bare in thanksgiving. And then, finally, I stepped into my classroom. I let my heart feel all the sacred circles that had gathered there, all the dancing, meditation, and profound sharing that had occurred over the years. I remembered having moved there from a much larger space because I was going back to school and needed to shift my focus for the next several years. Yet, having been in the building before, it felt like coming home. I remembered doing my morning meditations there in the middle of all the dirt and debris as it’d been vacant for quite a while before my son, Mitch, painted and the decorating began. Here I stayed the longest praying in thanksgiving. And, finally, as I walked down the stairs, I took one last look back and thanked the collective spirit of the place for having supported me and the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple’s vision and community for so long.

The spirit of place. I am now being led into a new sacred place, nature, and into the wild. No surprise! My next book, Lovers in the Wilderness: Discover Your Path to Mystical Unity with Mantra Prayer, is due out in the fall. And, today, during a long walk in nature, I was gifted with not one, not two, but three feathers. (see below) As I paused and meditated on them, I could suddenly see the Sonic Trilogy of Love right before me. For those of you who may not know, I first conceived of the Trilogy in my dissertation and later it was highlighted in The Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity. 

In the Trilogy, we as Lovers enter into the Love, sacred sound, to create the conditions for mystical unity with our Beloved God. (see diagram below) In Call of the Mourning Dove, as with my upcoming companion book, Lovers in the Wilderness, the Love is expressed as the sound current of the prayers from across faith traditions. But, it’s important to note that this Love, this sacred sound, is also experienced in many other meditative and prayerful contexts. Christians experience it in centering prayer as the sacred word to which they return again and again. Sufis experience it as they inaudibly chant the name of Allah while spinning. And Shamans, throughout the ages, have entered into unity with their Beloved Great Spirit as they have chanted and danced on the spirit of the rattle and drum.

Three feathers. In Shamanistic practice, all of God’s creation, nature, is imbued with the sacred spirit of place and feathers, gifted from this place, are considered an important omen. In this practice, we too may journey on the spirit of the rattle and drum, the Love, the sacred sound, and come into unity with our Beloved God, the Great Spirit, who now appears to us in the form of our spirit animal helpers and spirit guides. It is a beautiful practice that brings us to that place beyond our understanding again and again. Yes, right now, I’m being called into the spirit of the inner wild by those blessed feathers—to sing and dance from that place where Lover, Love and Beloved merge without distinction to create the conditions for mystical unity with the Great Spirit. It is where I started my spiritual journey in the early 90s and it’s where I am now returning coming full circle.

And what does the spirit of place and three feathers have to do with our opening quote from Dr. George Washington Carver? Well, those of you who know me well know that he is one of my most revered spiritual teachers. [Kindly see The Man Who Talks with the Flowers: The Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver and you’ll understand.] No one that I know of has embodied the full integration of nature and spirit more than Carver. An African American who lived in the south during the late 1800s and early 1900s, he is best known as a renowned scientist who discovered many uses for the peanut and sweet potato. Fewer know that he attributed all his successes to his daily communion with God which he felt enabled him to see into the spirit of things and bring forth what was possible. To Carver it was all about love—what I would call devotional love not the more common emotional love. It’s why he said, “Anything will reveal its secrets to you if you love it enough.” Peanuts, flowers, and people.

My Shamanism teacher, Sandra Ingerman, compares Carver’s work to the Shaman’s work and, indeed, it is. Bottom line, I’m being led to follow in a similar direction on the spirit of the rattle and drum, to commune more deeply with the Beloved Great Spirit, to see how we too may learn to love enough to see more deeply into the spirit of things.

Journey into the outer wilderness and you will, very likely, find there a portal into your inner wild—that place where mystical unity occurs. The place where, as Native Americans say, the wind talks, the silence speaks and, suddenly, the heart knows.

Dare. You, too, might just call up the fairies.

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