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Poems for the Earth

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In honor of Earth Day I’ll be posting and blogging about ecospiritual poems this week over at inscendence.

And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran


And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare paws and the winds long to play with your fur.  ~ my dog Saxon


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I’m now blogging at inscendence but I wanted to share this with you here. Gratitude to Sheila for taking me on this journey. 🙂



I enter the airport grateful for the automatic doors that allow me to pass with ease, given the load I’m carrying. I scan the concourse in search of the nearest counter and make my way there, shuffling, cursing myself for not having invested in the kind with wheels. I enter the queue, and am guided by barriers to the front of the line. The queue is empty at the moment, although I sense that the woman behind the counter has dealt with many personalities already today. I make a conscious effort to start out on the right foot. Positive. Polite. Cheerful.

“Hello,” I say, smiling.

“Good afternoon,” she replies, half-smiling.

Uh-oh, I think, but remind myself these things can change on a dime. Maybe I can win her over.

“I’d like to check this bag.” I’m met with assistance as she tugs the bag from her end up on to…

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On Grace and Healing

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The grace that is the health of creatures can only be held in common.
In healing the scattered members come together.
In health the flesh is graced, the holy enters the world.
~ Wendell Berry

This quote is from “Healing” a piece in Berry’s What are Humans For?

It’s a question that I have been contemplating, and the excerpt by Gary Snyder posted recently at Turtle Rock Farm raised it again. Snyder talks about the beings of the world as having been called forth by their fellows and by the larger creative, evolutionary process. I encourage you to read it and ponder. There’s a similar idea here in “Healing” — that health, in its broadest sense, arises from the connections and relationships within the whole. And that this wholeness is holy.

I want to write more about this healing, but I’m going to be doing it at another blog. My new blog will be more focused on nature and spirit. On discovering one’s true nature in nature. On inscendence.

I have been deeply inspired by the way other bloggers are exploring this theme, mostly implicitly. It just comes out of the way they are being in the world. So beautiful. Many thanks to Genie, Kai, Maximillian and Mike, to name just a few, for the way they share their gifts of reverence and presence. My hope is that my new blog will allow me to add my voice to the same cosmic liturgy.

Thanks for reading soul-in-progress. I’m not sure if I will be posting much here any more. But I’d love to have you join me over at inscendence.

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I am loving the Turtle Rock Farm blog.

Just want to share this post, and my comment:

This is true. People don’t change as the result of rational arguments, policies, and laws. They are changed through deeply felt, embodied knowing. Actions and their consequences are only the surface expression of this deeper change. It is our way of being and inhabiting our lives that needs to be transformed. The rest will follow.

Living Service

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credit: Andy Reis

credit: Andy Reis

We serve life not because it is broken, but because it is holy.  ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

A friend recently shared a beautiful article by Rachel Naomi Remen about the difference between helping, fixing, and service. Her basic point has to do with the importance of approaching good works from an attitude of love and connection.

Coming from the position of the detached expert who is going to fix the problem is inherently disempowering and objectifying. In the article, Remen shares an experience of shame created by this sort of fixing. Many practitioners of holistic healing arts make this same point, and do their best to ensure that they are not reinforcing clients in unhelpful passivity or victimhood. Similarly, social activists emphasize the importance of empowerment, dignity, and solidarity.

This is essentially about the energy of the process. Remen suggests that service emerges from the energy of oneness and reverence, and that helping/fixing comes from the energy of separation and brokenness.

What I want to add is that this same idea applies to environmental work. It was clear to me during my years in environmental nonprofits that the culture was very much one of fixing instead of loving, sacred service. Because that type of approach remains in the energy of separation and brokenness, its efficacy is ultimately limited.

I am convinced that when we work in the service of ecological restoration it is absolutely vital to hold the vision of the earth as both holy and whole. While we may at times feel grief when we witness destruction and suffering, we must also hold space for nature’s wisdom, tenacity, and power. She is sacred and she will prevail. With or without us.

Again, these words from Remen’s piece apply to our service to nature:

Service is not an experience of strength or expertise; service is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. Helpers and fixers feel causal. Servers may experience from time to time a sense of being used by larger unknown forces. Those who serve have traded a sense of mastery for an experience of mystery, and in doing so have transformed their work and their lives into practice.

Eyes to See Our Seeing

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credit: Andreas Krappweis

credit: Andreas Krappweis

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.  ~Rumi

This human self-awareness is tricky.  In the context of our mainstream culture, where the goal of life seems to be to acquire material things or status markers that will make us feel good (i.e. safe), self-awareness gets hijacked and tethered to superficial pursuits.

We can get lost in it, ending up in a blind alley of narcissism and selfishness. I think spiritual teachings that encourage us to focus purely on transcendence can lead us to a similar sort of place, though the accompanying narrative is more meaningful. There’s a feeling of detachment and isolation in the notion of moving beyond the messiness of life. And we can become obsessed with our progress in doing so.

In both cases, our self-awareness seems to be put in the service of answering that very human question:  “How am I doing?”

In contrast, Rumi’s version of self-awareness reflects a profoundly intentional embodiment, connectedness, and sense of the greater unfolding in which we are embedded, and its beauty and value. I think we are self-aware in order to praise the sun. And to praise our self-awareness in the midst of that appreciation and delight. I think we are self-aware because it allows a special kind of gratitude. What a privilege to dwell inside that thank you.


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credit: Barun Patro

credit: Barun Patro

We must also remember that we are the Spirit’s intention, each of us. Each of us is an expression of Incomprehensible Holy Mystery’s intentionality, its effort to engage in the world, to become more present in the world, to tangibly incarnate a greater portion of itself in and for our Earth community.  ~ Judy Cannato

When we really start to understand what Judy is talking about it becomes all but impossible to live without reverence. And attention. Then we begin to know that we are always moving in and through wholeness, connection, and ultimately, love. Then we begin to appreciate that way of knowing that is not conceptual, but perceptual, embodied, experiential.

We have forgotten. But we can remember.

Contemplation on a Poem #4

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credit: Dave Heinzel

credit: Dave Heinzel

It’s time I shared another reflection on a favorite poem. This one is by Mark Strand. Generally I find his poetry gray and tepid, and there are many times when that’s exactly what is called for. As Auden put it: the clear expression of mixed feelings.

I’ve been musing and reading much on nonduality lately, so this poem hits the spot. In my last post I talked about transcendence and the fantasy of escape that pervades much spirituality. While I focused on the New Age story of ascension, as I’ve suggested before, I think this is a major current in nondual approaches too. That’s unfortunate and maybe more a reflection of the times and the broader culture than anything inherent in nonduality. But then again, perhaps not.

What I appreciate most about nonduality is how it can challenge us with acceptance. With inhabiting our lives fully, without flinching or turning away. With the relentlessness of reality. I feel disappointed when I see it used as another place to hide out. Again, this is in keeping with our culture of disengagement and disembodiment, so it’s no surprise. But I believe nondual spirituality is most helpful at this particular time and place when it calls us to inscendence and intimacy.

Here, Mark Strand sways between inscendence and transcendence, and shows us how it’s done.

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Quinoa is a Name for God

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credit: Ramon Souza

credit: Ramon Souza

The equinox is approaching and it’s garden-planning time. This will be the year of my experiment with quinoa. And it’s finally snowing here at the edge of the Rockies. Excellent.

As I watch the snow I’ve been reflecting on divine immanence and the great need we have these days for “inscendence” instead of transcendence, as Thomas Berry put it. What does it truly look like to see the Divine in everything? In things, in the physical, in nature. What is it like to live that?

We are so disconnected from the real. We are so far away from what is real that we barely remember it. We walk only from our climate-controlled cars to our climate-controlled buildings. Our world is artificially lit. We wrap everything in plastic. In groups, we thumb our gadgets feverishly, avoiding eye contact. Not speaking. I am grateful to James, for his Mansion series, which elegantly captures our self-incarceration in sterile loops of mental structures. How we are comfortable, self-satisfied, and completely neutralized.

With such a cultural backdrop the current New Age fascination with “ascension” is not surprising. I’m fascinated at the parallels with the apocalyptic currents that were common around the time of Jesus. As it was back then, our world is chaotic, overwhelming, and confusing as the current empire lurches inexorably toward self-destruction. Like then, we are told that the time is at hand, and that all of this must be left behind. When the going gets tough, the faithful ascend.

The dogma of ascension is completely consistent with mainstream culture. It affirms the same patterns of disengagement, non-participation, and disembodiment. We are little packets of consciousness on our way to somewhere else. Somewhere more valid. Safer. Sadly, ascension affirms the deep belief that we don’t belong. And that the living, breathing world around us doesn’t matter.

But these quinoa seeds tell me something different. “Plant us,” they whisper. “We want to feed you with light. Here.”

Leaving Presence

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Anyone who pays attention to their insides eventually notices the inner human impulse to constantly move out of the present moment. I’ve been focusing on this a lot this lately and have observed two different aspects within this movement.

One has to do with a core need to control everything. My inner control freak is an absolutely fundamental part of my pattern of being in the world. I notice that I have a compulsion to manage, organize, and finesse every object, occurrence, and structure of reality. My mind wants to touch everything and shape it. This tendency continually takes me off the flowing path of presence and down little side trails.

Of course a lot of this mental activity is necessary and unavoidable. But I definitely overdo it. I recognize that it’s not helpful to give myself a hard time about it. Instead, I just notice when I’m doing it and create a little distance from that part of myself, rather than collapsing into it.

A second thing that’s going on is what A.H. Almaas describes as the failure to value the present moment. In other words: the failure to value direct contact with my True Nature, when this is probably the only thing of ultimate value. On the face of it, this sounds obvious. But lately I have been working with the exercise of inquiring into what really, deeply, relentlessly prevents me from loving and fully settling into the present moment. What is actually going on? What do I believe or assume that keeps me from groking that being in contact with my True Nature is what gives existence meaning?

As I see those structures and beliefs operating I feel a sense of embarrassment, surprise, and amusement. And it helps. For example, I find that I believe that only certain types of activities are important and valuable. So if a particular moment is not associated with that sort of activity, I don’t sense its value. I really do believe that. And if I examine that belief more deeply, I learn all kinds of things about the way it is shaping my life.

As I write this I sense that it all sounds obvious and simple. But like any practice, it really means nothing until applied in real experience. Only a small part of us functions in the abstract (though often it seems like it’s our favorite part – ha!). Noticing my beliefs and conditioning in-process creates space. I don’t have to then turn them into problems or projects. Just noticing is enough. When I bring them into awareness they shift on their own.

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