Faith & Patience

9/8/21

A conversation with a dear friend brought old wisdom into new light. The conversation was about waiting for a partner to come to a deeper, kinder, more embracing position on a challenging issue. When my lovely, loving friend expressed her belief that her favorite person would get there in their own time, I was moved and inspired by her faith and patience.

Today, I’m imagining Faith and Patience personified as two angels who arrive to enrich our relationships. Two archetypal beings under whose benign influence, we realize we’ve agreed … we’ve committed. We give thanks for the deep wells of trust that fill our hearts and expand our inner reach. We will wait for him or her or them. We’ll respect and love them as they work towards resolution.

I see Philip and me standing on a bridge in Bern, Switzerland years ago. We were furious, red-hot enraged. Surrounded by ancient architectural beauty and the sun breaking through a cloud-covered sky, light glittered on the water that ran swiftly below. Yet we–caught in the division of our egos—were blind to beauty. We were like C.S. Lewis’s dwarves hiding in their hut—small and benighted by fear. The War was over, Winter melted into Spring. But the dwarves–lost in fear of change–were blind to the peace and beauty surrounding them. They still huddled against a storm that was no longer there. Philip and I, too, nearly missed the moment in Bern.

About to say something awful, another angel/archetype—Grace–descended. And I–as if struck by lightning–knew with more certainty than ever that I was not going to walk away, not going to call it quits—not then, not ever. Faith, Patience, and Grace stepped onto that bridge and brought sanity back. Our relationship shifted on that day, was saved on that bridge when I believed in Philip beyond the mess of that moment. Believed he would pull through the storm and come to a wider, more expansive place. Love would win … and we would each be better beings for it.

It occurs to me that my friend’s loving trust in her partner (and mine in Philip) calls forward an energetic response from the archetypal realm.  Trust creates the receptive atmosphere necessary for growth. And in this crucible of faith and patience, we and our partners find the strength to do the work. Individual support aided by the collective field of Trust is unconsciously felt and received. And in that fertile ground, the best of human nature germinates and takes root.  It is this space of faith that is our gift to give. As David Whyte says, “… we are a form of invitation to others …” Our trust is our invitation to partners and ourselves to become more of who we are meant to be, to grow larger in spirit and soul.

Mark Nepo asks, “Don’t we help birth another the instant we encourage them to see with their heart? Don’t we help birth the world each time we give someone confidence to build what they see with their heart?” I sense we accomplish this in the alchemical mystery and the supporting alembic of loving relationships.  When the other knows we’re not going anywhere, when they feel our underlying trust infused with that which is greater than the personal, then, as novelist Louise Penny reminds us, “Ca va bien aller” (All will be well).

The King of Cups was my tarot card this morning. The King of Cups as an archetype connotes a blessing, emotional balancing, and spiritual leaning into compassionate awareness. There’s loyalty, reliability, and consideration. These treasured qualities are embodied and flower under the influence of Faith and Patience.

A beautiful conversation, a reading for this date in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening, and the morning’s tarot reading are signs for the day. They come together in a curious congruence that reminds me of the need for Faith and Patience. In my relationship with Philip, and in the friendships that grace my life now, this is one of the greatest gifts I have to offer…. and, to gratefully receive.

6 Years Gone By

March 15, 2021

Envoi

Sometimes

A voice is sent

To calm our deepest fears

Sometimes

A hearty laugh

Will banish our tears

Sometimes

Words will wing

Our dreaming ever higher

And sometimes

A mind will set

Our imagining afire. 

Reading this poem, I immediately found myself saying, “This is what Philip was for me.”

The poem was written and recited by John Quinn in memorial to his friend, the Irish poet, John O’Donohue. Quinn was one of many who gathered in January 2008 to celebrate the life and mourn the death of O’Donohue–poet, grand human being, and inspiration to many.

I hope Quinn won’t mind my borrowing his poem to mark the sixth anniversary of Philip’s death. In fact, I’m enjoying the image of the three ‘fellas’ (two as Irish as the day is long) sitting together in an Irish sort of Heaven (a pub), enjoying a glass of “the black stuff” (a Guinness) and engaging in ‘fierce’ (good, great, excellent) conversation.

As my envoi, Philip’s voice soothed my heart like warm honey in tea. His laugh tickled and delighted, while his words were a constant inspiration.  His mind never stopped reaching, imagining, and drawing me forward.  I doubt I’d ever have traveled as far or wide or deep (in the world or in myself) without the initial impetus of his longings and creative courage.

We are often called further into experience than we’d like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).  

This, too, Philip did for me. He ‘landed me in my vibrant center’ of meaning and aliveness.

On this sixth anniversary of his death, I turn to the photo I took from my Eastern facing windows the other evening—a magical but fleeting moment of splendor in the sky. The beauty filled my heart with gratitude and sweet sorrow. I still wonder where the spirit goes when it leaves its earthly body. Alongside sitting in a celestial pub having a crack with two Irish poets, I like imagining Philip gently nestled in a couch as light and soft as these clouds, softly chuckling over some good book. I imagine cuddling up with him to share his love and laughter, his pondering and dreaming.  

I’ve learned much in these past six years—six years that have been long, short, and everything in-between; six years I still cannot believe I’ve lived through in the absence of Philip’s physical presence. Perhaps the most reassuring thing I’ve come to understand in these years is that he was, and perhaps, even more so now, has become, an integral part of me. The person I loved is a part of who I am and a big part of who I love in myself. I still live within the sanctuary of the life and the love we created together.

Of course, I’d give everything to hear his laugh or a song right here, coming from his person. I’d even give a lot to have one of our heated conversations in which, in frustration, he’d finally say, “Just listen again. You just don’t understand yet. When you understand, I know you’ll agree with me.” Oh, infuriating man.  

But return in the body … no, that’s not how this story goes.

As so many before me who’ve struggled with the loss of the one they love, I carry on in the life I’ve been given to live. I find John O’Donohue has words for this:

There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out. Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are…” (To Bless the Space Between Us).

On this day, I feel compelled to give thanks for the love Philip gave me, and to express gratefulness for his leading me to all that’s vital to who I am and who I am ever becoming. My love flies out (and in), always. And, particularly today, in special heart-aching, heart-warmed grace and gratitude.

This Precious Life

During the last few days, a dear friend’s daughter gave birth to a little girl and another friend’s 97-year-old mother went to sleep and didn’t wake for three days and three nights. Celebrating birth, I received texts and phone calls and adorable newborn baby photos. Contemplating imminent death, my friend, sitting sleepless at her sleeping mother’s bedside, and I texted about letting go. In a 21st century conversation, with words pared down to the minimum and no disturbance to her somnolent mom, we shared fear and love.

In the last few months, I have found much solace in meditations by The Art of Meditation teacher—Burgs. He explains that in the Buddhist tradition, this human incarnation is a rare and precious event, not easily achieved, not to be taken for granted. Certainly not to be wasted. He ponders why we have arrived here now. How long our souls may have waited and longed for this opportunity to be blessed with the extraordinary good fortune of our human birth.

As I listen to him, I imagine a celestial gathering of souls lining up and waiting with saint-like patience for their turn to enter a human body. Like waiting in line to get into the Beetles’ concert at Shea Stadium in 1965? A once in a lifetime opportunity. No, that’s not right …. And not nearly serious enough. A soul achieving this highest of births is an exceptional spiritual happening. A privilege and an opportunity. How do we forget this?

Buddhist or not … I am gifted, reminded by the darling little being who’s just dared to enter the world and by the 97-year-old, who, like Sleeping Beauty, has waked from her three-day sleep. (She’s still here, still wants to participate in her extraordinary life). Both brave beings inspire me to ask what I am doing with my one precious life. Am I treasuring this brief time? Am I choosing Life and Love so that my soul extends and expands to its greatest potential? And if not, hadn’t I best get started?

For Philip’s Birthday

This year, on this day, November 19th, Philip would have turned seventy-three. Seventy-three—an age hard to fathom from where I sit so uncomfortably near to it. How did we get this old? I’m five years younger than Philip and have become accustomed to my sixties. But seventies? Isn’t that an undeniable border-crossing? A first step beyond middle-aged?

In my inner images of Philip, the man I carry gently tucked into the corners of my soul, he is forever young. The vulnerable man-child who, at our first encounter, reached for me, pulled me into his arms, and whispered, “Ahh, it’s you.” The rapscallion charmer who toasted me with a wink at our picnic wedding, acting more like a flirt on a pickup than a bridegroom. The whimsical dreamer, ever walking us into our next adventure.

“We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.” I read this quote from Thomas Brown (in Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening. 2000, 2020) and thought of Philip’s never-ending longing for his place on the planet. Was he mistaking the wonders without for those within? Do we ever find home? Is there some coordinate on a map where we belong, where we finally inhale reflected recognition and exhale a resounding relief? Ahh … here it is. We are home.

 But must we accept that the inward turn is the only way to go (or stay)? Might there be another way or a combination of ways for some to attain the inner life? Would Philip ever have been able to nest, to settle into a physical place? Or was he bound to wander, to seek? He who otherwise spoke and wrote incessantly of the longings of the soul for the inward-facing life. He who chose to walk slowly so to be with a place. He who–rather than explore the tourist sites of a new town, preferred to sit on the city’s riverbank, savoring a ripe peach, and, from a contemplative distance, view an ancient cathedral.

Were his wonders solely within? He was also inclined to pack up his picnic, catch the next train, map out the route to the next destination, hail the next boat-taxi. He sat in the prow of the boats we took on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala like a happy dog with his ears flapping back in the wind, scenting and anticipating what was to come in the next port.

Was this impossibly contradictory soul happiest when he was on his way to the next possibility? A nomad, a gypsy? The one who takes to the road to find himself and his solace. Is it an absolute that salvation lies only in a turning within? Or are some of us destined to traverse a more roving, a more transient path on our way to that inner home?

Perhaps, we should have invested in a gypsy caravan (a small RV? A houseboat?) and spent our years wandering. Maybe it would have been a life of staying only long enough to imbibe the beauty and awe of a place, traveling with John Ruskin’s two aims for art: to find beauty in the particularity of each locale and/or to make sense of pain. Our vagabond life—a work of art.

In our simple rolling or floating home, we might, ironically, have found our ground in movement, in flow. Rather than seeking the one place to settle, perhaps, we were more akin to the traveler, Levison Wood, who feared that “getting stuck in one place meant a loss of momentum and with that the prospect of getting stuck in one narrative…” (An Arabian Journey, 2018). Possibly, had we shifted our narrative, no longer seeking a singular home, we might have found more satisfaction in the unsettled, more fluid way of life we’d unwittingly adopted. Perhaps, a narrative embracing a life on the road or the water would have allowed us to build our inward home, one we would furnish with all the splendors and sorrows of the wide world. In many ways, we’d already done this. Yet, the story of finding our place on the planet may have blinded us to an alternative way to see it. How powerful–these stories we tell ourselves. These tales we live by.

Mark Nepo says, “Seeking in the world has always been a way to mirror … where we need to work inwardly.”  Perhaps, our way home would have been worked in flux, in search. Possibly, it was a multifaceted narrative, one of external change and diversity—mirroring back an interior journey rather than a settled existence.

Nepo quotes Saint Francis as saying, “You are that which you are seeking.” Maybe Philip was a seeker mistakenly looking for a place to settle. What he was seeking was the beauty that would ease his pain. Perhaps, a beauty that could not be held still or planted in one spot.

So, my wanderer, my gypsy soulmate, on your Birthday, wherever you roam and wherever you rest, I wish you love. I send you all the love I have found to furnish my inmost home in this time when I’m still here … and you have gone on.

A Beautiful Book

Dear Friends and Readers,

HamnetI am delighted to have published a response to this captivating novel in which I’ve recently been deliciously immersed. The author, Maggie O’Farrell, transported me into a captivating world far from our time and place (Elizabethan England) yet reflecting so much that matters here and now, inwardly and out. The novel I read and loved is called Hamnet. For anyone who enjoys historical fiction, please, don’t miss this book. I won’t say anymore so that you will, I hope, read about it in my review on Christine Christman’s website, Goodwords Inc.

Here’s the review

Christine’s website provides a rich and bountiful resource for readers. Take a wander around it at your readerly leisure:  https://www.goodwordsinc.net/

The book reviews give you more than a good summary and taste of what the books are about. To focus my review, she asked me to respond to the following questions:

  1. What did I learn about myself?
  2. What did I learn about my world?
  3. What new possibilities did this book help me imagine?

Attempting to respond to these points gave me an opportunity to reflect more deeply about the book than I otherwise would have. I hope you enjoy the review enough that it makes you want to read the book. It would be a great book club book.

Wishing all and each of you well and staying relatively sane in these challenging times.

Posted with love,

joan