Category: Mysteries

Three Poems

Three Poems

wild roses on the prairie

The wild roses grow

along the path I walk forever.

 

 

 

The Bittern at the pond

wrote me a letter.

It said, “Look!”

Saying Grace

It will not end when you die.

In the Cathedral the trees will still grow

and the mushrooms appear.

The cat will still sleep in the sunny window

and the unnamed insect will continue to crawl in and out.

The rose beside the alter will still have thorns and perfumed petals.

And when it all burns away,

a new cosmos will appear in the heavens,

complete and lively. And you will be somewhere in it too.

In the deep and fertile dark, a seed of light.

 

 

The Questions Enliven Us

The Questions Enliven Us

The realization that I needn’t have answers to the Big Questions, needn’t seek answers to the Big Questions, has served as an epiphany. I lie on my back under the stars and the unseen galaxies and let their enormity wash over me. . . . Mystery generates wonder, and wonder generates awe (Goodenough, 1998, p. 13).

I like the mysteries of life. I felt when young, and still feel now, the compelling nature of those dimensions of life which can’t be known and understood with certainty.  I appreciate explorations of the many mysteries that exist—the questions of beginnings, meanings and purposes—questions that have many possible answers and interpretations. The lack or impossibility of coming to know the central mysteries of the universe has never been a reason for me, or for cosmologists, to stop pondering them. Quantum physicists also ponder and create. They develop mathematical equations that describe—with precise findings that have been duplicated and proven many times—the nature of some elements and dimensions of the universe, but not ones that explain why the universe exists at all. Imagine representing the meaning of life mathematically!

the far hills of Cyprus

There are some big questions most fundamental for me. “Why is there a universe or multiverse at all? How can something be created from nothing?” are my favourite questions. They have so many possible and not necessarily probable answers.

Other prismatic questions that enrich my life are: In the face of the mysteries of life, what then must I do? What is my role?  What is the essence of goodness? Why does beauty seemed to be attached to the mysteries at the centre existence? Was love inherent in the universe from the beginning?

The Divine is felt in many theologies to be love. I have not found sufficient reasons to believe that. Much as I might want to think that the ultimate source or spirit of life (what many call the Creator or God) is ultimately one of compassion, in the face of human cruelty I cannot. When I think of what might be meant by “God”, my conception is that the central life force, if a god, is a god of freedoms—freedoms within limitations.

I am better pleased with ridding my thoughts of any kind of ‘Godness” attached in any way to human characteristics, and seeing instead a endless creative process—infinite in time and space. Theologian and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School Gordon Kaufman (2004) calls the whole process of creation and destruction, continuity and change, with its unknowable beginnings and on-going, perhaps infinite, bringing of the new into existence, “Serendipitous Creativity.” Not only a seemingly infinite creative process, but also one with moments of grace that made it possible for the earth to support life, and for human life to coexist with all other life forms.

Humans coming into being and evolving was an event for which improbable conditions were just right at just one small moment and never again—cause for wonder and gratitude. As science writer, Ed Yong (2016), describes it;

For roughly the first 2.5 billion years of life on Earth, bacteria and archea charted largely separate evolutionary courses. Then, on one fateful occasion, a bacterium somehow merged with an archaeon, losing its free-living existence and becoming entrapped forever with its new host. That is how many scientists believe eukaryotes came to be. It’s our creation story: two great domains of life merging to create a third, in the greatest symbiosis of all time. The archaeon provided the chassis of the eukaryotic cell while the bacterium eventually transformed into the mitochondria . . . . There is a huge void between the simpler cells of bacteria and archaea and the more complex ones of eukaryotes, and life has managed to cross that void exactly once in four billion years (p.9).

The countless bacteria and archaea in the world have never again managed to produce a eukaryote. And yet, that union is the reason that plants, humans and other animals, and anything else that can be seen without a microscope, exist. Why only that once? Why then?

I agree with poet Mary Oliver when she says “In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions.” There is so much to wonder about. So much to beauty to appreciate, so much destruction to mourn and power to be in awe of, so many questions and wonderful answers. Yet the mysteries persist. Opportunities for wonder exist as permanent opportunities. For instance, the question of “why the universe exists at all” has never, and probably will never, be answered in a way that satisfies every human soul. We wonder why we here and who we are meant to become. We wonder why love seems to flow through life on earth, and try to understand human consciousness and how deep it can go in sensing hidden realities. I close my eyes and envision a chain of “whys?” extending and fading into infinity.

It pleases me somehow when I am reading nonfiction to come a page where the author is asking the great questions of existence. For example, Albert Schweitzer, beloved by so many for his compassion, his wisdom, his music, and his dedication to the poor people in Lambaréné, in the Ogowe district of Africa, wrote that pondering the elemental questions of life is necessary to becoming fully human. In his words,

Elemental thinking starts from fundamental questions about the relationship of humans to the universe, about the meaning of life, and about the nature of what is good. It is directly linked to the thought that motivates all people. It penetrates our thought, enlarges and deepens it more profound (1933/1990, p. 228).

Ursula le Guin, author of fantasies, essays, and literary criticism, in speaking of the nature of life reminds us “It doesn’t have to be the way it is” and suggests the thought that the universe, the Earth, could be otherwise is where imagination and fundamentalism come into conflict. Le Guin also believes in the power and importance of the big questions.

“Why are things as they are? Must they be as they are? What might they be like if they were otherwise?”To ask these questions is to admit the contingency of reality, or at least to allow that our perception of reality may be incomplete, our interpretation of it arbitrary or mistaken. . . . To open a door that has been kept closed is an important act (2017.p. 83).

Indeed.

Phillip Simmons, in his eloquent book about living with Lou Gerick’s disease, reminds us of the difference between mysteries and puzzles.

As a culture we have accomplished a great deal by seeing life as a set of problems to be solved. . . . We observe the world, we break down what we see into its component parts. We perceive problems and set about solving them. . . . And here is where we go wrong. For at its deepest level life is not a problem but a mystery. The distinction is fundamental – problems are to be solved, true mysteries are not (2000/2003, pp. 7-8).

Mysteries are to wonder about.  And be alert to. And be in awe of. And the questions keep us on our toes. Peering into places and realms where we’ve never looked before. Scanning the planet for new possibilities. Listening to the ideas of birds and winds and the cow in the field. I asked a former dairy farmer once, “Do cows have best friends?  That set us wondering.

Small mysteries such as pondering the inner life of plants and animals can exercise the imagination, be cause for amusement or communion. Bound together as we are on this small orb circling the heavens let us not assume too much. Or too little.

As we age, we may lose some of our memories, but let us not lose our questions.

Beauty and We Don’t Know Why

Beauty and We Don’t Know Why

Whatever attitude to human existence you fashion for yourself, know that it is valid only if it be the shadow of an attitude to Nature. A human life, so often likened to a spectacle upon a stage, is more justly a ritual. The ancient values of dignity, beauty, and poetry which sustain it are of Nature’s inspiration; they are born of the mystery and beauty of the world. (H. Beston, 1988 p. 218)

 

The Spiral Galaxy, source – Hubble website

There is so much to wonder about. So much to beauty to appreciate, so much destruction to mourn and power to be in awe of, so many questions and wonderful answers. Yet the question of “why the universe exists at all” has never been answered in a way that satisfies every human soul. We wonder why we here and who we are meant to become. We wonder why love seems to flow through life on earth, and try to understand human consciousness and how deep it can go in sensing hidden realities. I close my eyes and envision a chain of “why?’s” extending and fading into infinity.

In his book, A Briefer History of Time (2005) brilliant mathematician and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking,  describes how scientists are striving to create a complete theory  such as was intended by string theory. He says that up to this point most scientists have been too preoccupied with theories that describe what the universe is to ask why? Perhaps many feel that the “why” questions  of ultimate existence are impossible to answer and to attempt to is a pursuit with no particular value. In relation to this, Hawking concludes that theories of science should be accessible in some form to everyone including the pursuit of “Why?” . He says:

If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we would know the mind of God. (p. 142) [my emphasis]

I feel Hawking is being rather playful here while at the same time serious in reminding us of what lies behind what we know now and possibly of the limits of what can be known. He uses metaphors as all physicists, mathematicians and other scientists do when it comes to theorizing about the infinitely large and infinitely small. To me, the “why” questions are infinitely interesting – mainly for their connections to meaning. They appear to me as questions of Spirit. And Mystery.

Poets, philosophers, and theologians use different words and images in pondering the ultimate questions of existence and some keep these ideas and questions separate from how they live their life. For Indigenous cultures across the world and throughout time, spirituality was contained in their lives and languages, all of a piece.

A Lakota ceremonialist, Don Coyhis, commented:

This is not a scientific or technological world. The world is first a world of spirituality. We must all come back to that spirituality. Then, after we have understood the role of spirituality in the world, maybe we can see what science and technology have to say. (quoted in Simonelli, 1994, p.11).

Ojibwa author Richard Wagamese (2008) describes this world of spirituality as a world where everything is energy that connects all beings. “We are all one being. We are all one soul,”  he tells us.

Chinese scholars called this energy “qi”. It has also been thought of in other traditions as “spirit”, “vac”, or “Word”. Gary Holthaus, in his book Learning Native Wisdom talks of ways the Mystery was described by human wisdom seekers. He says that for Nishida, an early-20th century philosopher, the mystery at the heart of Nature goes beyond “mere universes” and is pure experience – experience that lies behind or prior to planet earth. A sensibility that refers to ‘mere’ universes makes me smile – contemplating one universe seems like a life’s worth of awe to me. Nishida continues in describing what he means by pure experience in these words.

Because it exists at the deepest heart of Nature, it is eternal. We can rely on pure experience, Nishida holds, because it is always available to us, always present. Further, in that depth there resides a unifying force that Nishida calls ‘spirit.’ He says, ‘I contend that reality comes into being through interrelationship.’ (pp. 192-193).

The Eagle Nebula, source – Hubble website

 Father Thomas Berry, scientist, environmentalist, cultural historian, and religious thinker speaks of the basic principles of the universe process in a way that also emphasizes the interconnectedness of all life forms. He says the primordial intentions of the universe are towards differentiation, subjectivity, and communion and defines these in ways that give these intentions spiritual value and a form of beauty.

Differentiation refers to the extraordinary variety and distinctiveness of everything in the universe. No two things are completely alike. Subjectivity is the interior numinous component present in all reality, also called consciousness. Communion is the ability to relate to other people and things due to the presence of subjectivity and difference. Together these create the grounds for the inner attraction of things for one another ( pp. 168-169).

I notice the similarities in which scholars from different countries and spiritual traditions talk about the great mystery. I love those similarities – the unity of interrelationships, the uniqueness of each individual life form, the different ways that spirit is approached, and how all come to rest on the same felt sense of an eternal force or original quality. Some philosophers and theologians feel that the fact that humans have always asked the large questions of existence suggests that there is something more – an eternal, unifying force of some kind behind the reality we see, hear, and touch. They feel that the deepest part of our inner life, our spirit, senses this “More”and creates a vision of what it is like. I ponder why it is that people from all cultures through time desire a personified force to pray to – or ask for help, or give thanks without knowing who or what they are addressing.

In my reflections over the years, I have come to feel that the greatest gift humans have received from what I call the Spirit of Life is freedom – freedom to choose how to live, freedom to question and appreciate what is in us and around us. We can choose what we look for in the universe and in life. I seek stories of human goodness, tolerance, generosity, and compassion. I find much beauty in the world and know it could be otherwise. For me, cruelty and destruction do not cancel out the beauty or the goodness in the world.

My just-turned-seven-year-old grandaughter  was sitting with her mother in an auditorium watching a video of the coral reefs and listening to the discussion with coral reef scientists that followed it. The audience were encouraged to ask them questions. My grandaughter whispered in her mother’s ear, “I have a question. Why is life so beautiful?”

Madeleine in Spring, courtesy J. Klenz

“Why?” indeed.

I know that for many, perhaps most humans, the answer is because God created it that way. Why is there something rather than nothing? Because Creator, Allah, God, or the eternal Tao brought the cosmos into being before time began. But, “Why?” and “How?” Other mysteries. Perhaps scientists will find answers they can accept to the “How?” question. Perhaps many people will continue to live in relationship with their God and feel no need to seek further.

I have written of this before but it matters so much, I will say it again. What matters is not what you believe in relation to the Mystery or God or Nothingness but rather how that belief shapes the way you live

  • Does how you answer the question of “Why there is something rather than nothing?” or how you envision the ultimate source of the universe make you kinder? more compassionate?
  • Does it make you feel more open to and appreciative of human and bio diversity?
  • Does your belief system in relation to the large questions of existence, make your more awake and aware of the life around you?
  • Does it leave you with more questions and an open mind?
  • Do your ultimate beliefs open your heart and strengthen your spirit?

 

 

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The Dark and the Whole

The Dark and the Whole

On Darkness and Oneness

the light within the storm  Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life, your own or your mother’s, or a celebrated figure’s, an event, a crisis, another culture is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness, those nights of history, those places of unknowing. Solnit, R. (2014), p.

Rebecca Solnit* is commenting on something that Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal on Jan. 18, 1915 as the First World War was leading to such affliction, suffering and heartbreak. She wrote, “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” Solnit understands Woolf’s darkness as uncertainty of not being able to see what is ahead—a good thing to hold as fundamental to persons as well as futures. She says,

[Woolf] is calling for circumstances that do not compel the unity of identity that is a limitation or even repression. It’s often noted that she does this for her characters in her novels. Less often than, in her essays, she exemplifies it in the investigative, critical voice that celebrates and expands, and demands it in her insistence on multiplicity, on irreducibility, and maybe on mystery, if mystery is the capacity of something to keep becoming, to go beyond, to be uncircumscribable, to contain more.  (pp. 99-100).

Not knowing for sure, there are still possibilities–perhaps that something better is still achievable. The dark story may still hold moments of compassion or generosity; it may end in a different place. The horizon may shift. More will be seen.

Even when a life has been completed, the story of who the person was is not completed and never will be, and perhaps, never should be. My father was in the trenches in France during that First World War at the age of 17. He had a dark side. Perhaps as a result of his war experiences, perhaps as a result of the way these experiences affected who he was and his personhood as a whole. The suffering and scars went deep for him and affected those closest to him. He had an unpredictable temper, black moods, and a fatal flaw in his need for power, love, and admiration that no one could fulfill. While this was true for how we knew him, there was much more. He had great warmth, humour, and creativity. You could say his darkness was darker and his brightness brighter than most people.

Yet at the heart of his life was a passion for social justice, and a belief that we are indeed our brother’s keeper (he felt this as deeply as any Christian yet he was an agnostic and no lover of organized religions). He came to deplore wars and nationalistic pride and was a pacifist. My father accepted the responsibilities these convictions brought with them and fought for the rights of workers throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. He helped to organize unions and walked picket lines with striking workers. I remember one occasion where he stood with the women from Woolworth’s (a five and dime type of department store) in a strike he helped organize because he believed forming a union would bring them a living wage and job security—something few women had.

He loved the outdoors, creating family rituals, and teaching all the neighbourhood kids games we could play with a few cans or a ball. He was a sentimental man who cried at weddings on television and a storyteller with a tendency to exaggeration and holding the floor for what could seem like forever. How I remember him and how I feel about him as a father and as a human being has continued to change as I change. I will never capture all of who he was and like Woolf, feel that is a good thing.

We can look at persons as wholes, as embodying singularity and a oneness that contains a world. Or as so inextricably connected to everyone, every event, and everything else that we are confounded in our attempts to know who they are with any certainty. How much we can bear is perhaps how much we can see or understand of a person close to us or of what it means to be human. It is not easy to recognize or accept all that is below the surface of someone you feel close to.

I find I need vision to see the good within all humans; a lot of moral courage to face what history tells of human destructiveness; and greater sensitivity to see the compassion of others as their beauty. To understand that the seemingly ordinary people I see on the street all have whole lives and hidden depths, unrealized talents and dreams takes heart, and willingness to forego judgements. It seems like a crucial understanding. I often fall short. I have found models of this openness and kindness in my life and in my reading and I continue to feel this is an essential life task for all of us.

In describing the nature of the world, naturalist Sigurd Olson talks of an attitude of facing, seeing all that life contains, it’s joys and sorrows, and being able to feel in accord with it, a part of that world.

Oneness is a sense of communion vital to a [hu]man’s mental well-being and to his [or her] survival. It does not come just by being called upon; far more than a point of view, a permanent attitude that colours all we do. . . . Oneness recognizes all things, the harsh with the benevolent, the cruel with the kind, violence with peace—all of it belonging to those who know it. Oneness can be felt anywhere on a city street, in a quiet pool, at home, or on some raging ocean coast. It does away with fear. (Sigurd Olson (1976/1997) Reflections from the North Country, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, p. 79)

Oh, to be able to feel and keep that sense of communion, to see the beggar and know he is also me. A soul that is part of the world’s soul. A sorrow that is part of the beauty and the anguish of the world, a part of the all that is in me and beyond me. Oneness, darkness, and light.

*In Solnit, ((2014), “Woolf;s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable.” pp. 85-106.

 

 

 

Take Heart-On words with power

Take Heart-On words with power

Take Heart

I watched a woman being interviewed. She sat in a wheelchair because she was elderly and feeble. She said that she was dead for she had lost her heart. The psychiatrist asked her to place her hand over her breast to feel her heart beating: it must be there if she could feel its beat. “That,” she said, “is not my real heart.” James Hillman, (Jungian psychologist) quoted in S. H. Buhner, 2010, p. 21).

I love that response. There was no hesitation there in understanding and using language metaphorically. Many of us are wary of that part of us or of others which knows and feels ideas and phenomena beyond the visible world—in the realm of that which can’t be proved. It’s funny what we can accept and what we cannot, what words we feel fine using and which words we ridicule silently, aloud, or perhaps  are afraid of. I know people who are fine with talking about the heart as the source of deeper feelings or the gut as the source of intuitions but to talk of spirit matters would take them over the edge of the precipice. They do not jump. I know people who are fine with the words, heart, spirit, and soul to express longings, callings, suffering, but who find their use in the religious realm unacceptable and the word God absolutely taboo.

Like many people, I am adverse to turning abstract concepts into absolutes. I have experienced an antipathy to some of the ways words from the Christian or other spiritual traditions are misused. I am angered when they are adopted in the interest of sowing hate and discord, of dividing people one from the other. In many instances I have kept away from using the word “god” because I feel the ultimate existential questions of why there is something rather than nothing and why we are here can’t be solved by personification.

Yet, theological and spiritual language has an important place in human life. Some words from these traditions seem charged with the force of the great mystery. Northrup Frye called them “words with power.” God, spirit, soul, faith, heaven, hell, grace are like vessels holding religious ideas concentrated and distilled from centuries of humans’ deep feelings, powerful experiences, meditations, and long thoughts. The language of faith and religious institutions can cling to the person using them and may be accepted or rejected based on our feelings about that person –their sincerity, the depth of their compassion, and the breadth of their inclusiveness.

the light in the rock, the light from the rocks,  -courtesy of A.M. Schaefer

The rejection of these words as describing any sort of reality may also stem from a fear of the unknowable. Perhaps we don’t feel sufficiently defended against the aspects of life and mystery these words point to. Perhaps a leap into theological beliefs might demand some response we are not prepared to make. And for some the existence of what is often called evil –knowledge and experience of human depravities and destructiveness—can  be strong reasons to turn against religious traditions, their language, and their beliefs. There are variations of this from “How could a God of love let my son die?” to “Religions create division and are causes for wars.” While these are about beliefs, they are created by words. There are so many reasons to be wary.

And yet, I live comfortably with the idea that there are important existences that humans can’t pin down and attach a proof to, dimensions of the universe that even scientists have no certainty about and use metaphoric language in attempts to describe. I think a life without questions of ontology and cosmology is a life diminished of sources of meaning. And any religious beliefs that come out of human experiences and that leave people kinder and softer, more inclusive and less dogmatic, I respect and leave open.

I appreciate the spiritual sensibilities that come out of most Indigenous cultures because they are grounded in the Earth and encompass the universe. I use the word Creator in those times I feel a need to personalize the great mystery. I also believe in the concept of the sacred and feel its respectfulness supports living thoughtfully in and protecting natural environments and places held to be sacred to cultures and peoples.

I am grateful pretty much at all times for the creative nature of humans and the ability to express aspects of life not amenable to the language of the everyday. I don’t question the need for compassion or that dreams could have some meaning that might relate to how you live or might better live. If by soul is meant some part of the human makeup that feels things deeply, appreciates the aesthetic dimension of human life, is open to flashes of insight, and startling contradictions of what was previously felt or thought; I have one. If by spirit is meant the longing to transcend, to connect to life forms and forces at infinitely great distances, to miss nothing, to believe everything that is possible to believe then I have a spirit. Can I make clear distinctions between spirit and soul? Not really, but I know how psychologists who respect mystery describe them as different but equally necessary to a human life fully lived.

If some people are most comfortable collapsing the soul and spirit into the concept of the human heart as if by this move, they are ridding them of any divine nature, I can understand that. But I might suggest they are not necessarily leaving the field of spirit altogether. If the heart is believed to be a muscle pumping blood to all parts of the brain and body or just a collection of cells, mystery remains. Even our cells interconnect and communicate with other cells. Atoms connect across time and space and can affect each other and change when observed. Even the universe is considered by many cosmologists to be infinite. Science is finding the reality underlying the universe to be disturbingly statistical, yet unpredictable and mysterious. Even our cells seem miraculous. So, speaking of my heart instead of soul or spirit still gives the word a touch of the sacred.

I feel that the spirit and soul are part of what makes us valuable to the Earth and the cosmos and that feel is the right word to use. I want those words to have meanings that matter to the good life—to be real, to stand for real dimensions of humans—even without their being found by neurosurgeons or new x-ray-like technologies. What is gained when we allow for the possibility that many ideas and potentialities veiled in the mystery of what can’t be known should be respected and given room in our life?  More wonder and awe, more sources of meaning, more humility, are some gifts that come to mind. I love the idea of the possible, the might be. There is a kind of certainty that seems to be the death of the soul. Be open. Take heart.

Intuitions and Illuminations

Intuitions and Illuminations

We explore the interior realm because it is what we humans are for—consciousness, the marvelous voyage. (Tarrant, J. 1998/1999, The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life, HarperCollins: New York, p.6)

A few days ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to write other than that I wished, hoped, to write some thoughts from some source that wasn’t the rational, logical mind. Perhaps, to hear the poetry of the soul— mine and of the cosmos. So I started this task with the tool closest to hand, the mind with its raven’s nest lined with ragged and worn memories, and once shiny thoughts. I hoped I would somehow drift out of the nest and into the voice of the heart, soul, or spirit. Those forces of the interior realm. What comes when we are truly awake. What is felt in the larger mind of the body, the heart.

It is hard for me to shift from the rational, doubting, logic-creating mind. Exploring the interior realm can take us very deep, leave us full of doubts or longings.

The heart, soul, spirit triad are believed by some to be three distinct archetypes that bring the same messages in different forms, shaped by different sources. The heart’s communications come from listening to our feelings and emotions; the soul brings ideas and sensed meanings from the quirks and puzzles of consciousness, often packaged in the happenings of the day, in what crosses our path. The spirit’s faint calls are heard in experiences of “the in between”, of sensing more than the eye that saw and the bird that sang, but some relationship of being to being; of somehow transcending our present consciousness and feeling life open wider.

Grasslands National Park
the wind through the grass, the immovable rock

It seems easiest for me to believe that the forces of nature call to us; awaken us to beauty, remind of us powers beyond our own. There is spirit in those forces. Soul in the old tree and the eyes of the wolf. Many voices, perhaps one truth. Offered to us in the silence of the mind or the roar of the wind – the depths of the dark and the bend of light.

And shouldn’t hearing and responding to the inner voice involve curiosity, imagination, humour, and desire; perhaps as much or more than intention, resolve, logic, and commitment? A life time of seeing, hearing, sensing, responding, and waiting to unearth, stumble over, or invent what happens next. The inner voice—a part of a very human life.

I have talked to a few people, more commonly, read from books of poetry or prose in which the author describes the experience of recognizing the heart, soul, or spirit voice. I think it is heard, because those same people believe it exists.

I want to believe that too. Hoping that in the belief that there is more to life than can be known directly, concretely; the invisible might become discernible; the murmur more distinct. Perhaps the spirit whispers too faintly and I am tuned to a louder volume. Perhaps, the soul’s desires are most often ignored, not felt by the heart region of my body. Or contradicted by my seemingly reasonable mind.

It is in the hours of the night that I ask the soul and spirit questions. “What’s wrong?” or “What should I do?” or, “What are the limits of love? Is love inherent in the cosmos—existing in all moments and places and beyond time and space?” No voices answer, or they do, but the responses seem so simple, or so crazy that I don’t believe in them being other than the usual machinations of my mind.

In poet and activist Gary Synder’s view, they might come from a trickster –one so gifted in upsetting everyday beliefs that they are either not heard or not believed. Kabat Zinn might say the messages are there and they come from the heart and the practice of being still and aware.

The task of hearing the soul’s voice seems to be one of going deeper—it arrives as a voice that might easily contradict what we think we know. What we feel pressured to do. The spirit’s voice is perhaps heard as a call to fly higher. What do I know other than I need to be silent, I need to be calm, I need to be outside. Perhaps equally, I need to be in turmoil, or utterly foolish, or enraptured. Willing to live in the extremes life brings and also able to stop and be still whether inside or out.

Once, I heard a voice that did not seem to be my own, say, “Sandra, you are loved.” I did hear it, but not because it was spoken out loud. I immediately called on the inner skeptic to discredit the source and the message. Perhaps, other messages have been missed which means I didn’t or couldn’t shift from the analytic, logical dominance of brain mode to the possibilities of the heart and imagination.

Freeing the imagination is so difficult for me most times. I trod on. It isn’t so much that I need more poetry, more music, more stories, more light and dark, more trees and tiny bugs; as I need to hear, see, feel, with a sense of possibility. A sense that there is a message in their somewhere.  Always a message. And more messages.  And let the answers be riddles. And flashes of light. And sudden darkness.

I am nervous of people who think they know. I want a life with so many meanings it makes me dizzy and a life with moments of respite that feel anointed by something other and benevolent. Blessed times when in returning, I feel renewed. If the holy is anywhere it is in the everyday. Breathe, walk, look, ask questions, believe in everything you can. Oh to voyage far, wide, and deep.