Show Your Soul

Show Your Soul  is an online journal of writings and artworks from the members and friends of all ages of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church.

SILENCE: The Practice of Waiting

Posted by on Dec 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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There is silence and beauty in the most unexpected ways. Union Square, San Francisco, CA


There is silence and beauty in the most unexpected ways.
Union Square, San Francisco, CA

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Silence by Don Lifto

Sweet silent soul work;

Solace…weary spirit rest.

Miracles abound.

I am introverted by nature. Not to be confused with shyness, (although I am somewhat shy as well) introversion has more to do with where you are most comfortable and satisfied – in the world with many or alone in what philosopher Soren Kierkegaard characterized as a search for truth and meaning in “passionate inwardness.” Introversion also does not mean one is a hermit or would be happy stranded on a forgotten island talking to the seagulls. The fact that introversion has historically been perceived as less desirable than extroversion explains why introverts, when the subject comes up in conversation, often slip into default explanations of what it is not rather than proudly affirming the immarcescible satisfaction in being alone.

Introversion also does not necessarily translate to awkwardness or withdrawn behavior at the proverbial cocktail party. Most introverts can “buck it up” and do what needs to be done in social situations large and small. What it does mean is that events of these types will drain their energy, as they push themselves to interact in ways or for lengths of time that do not happen naturally or provide inherent satisfaction. Introverts might enjoy the party, but will be tired and ready to go home before their extroverted compatriots who miraculously gain energy through their social interactions much like a plane getting refueled in midair.

When not alone immersed in “passionate inwardness,” introverts do their best relationship work when one-on-one (second best two-on-one, and inversely less comfortable as the number grows). It is not unusual for introverts to display almost gregarious behavior when interacting with just one or a small number of friends. If you watch carefully you will witness a gradual quieting from your introverted friend as the room begins to fill up with others. Or, you might see the introvert turning his or her attention conversation to one person nearby.

Studies abound on this topic, not only probing the differences between introverts and extroverts (and endless variations on the theme along the continuum between) but also evaluating gender differences within this context. Professor Timothy Wilson, in a 2014 study published in the Journal of Science, discovered that men, as a group, would rather endure an electrical shock than spend extended periods of time alone while their minds wandered in quiet contemplation – two thirds of them would choose the shock instead! Three quarters of woman, in stark contrast, would be happy in a quiet, meditative state. Happily, I will pass on the electricity – for introverts like me miracles do abound in “sweet silent soul work,” healing the spirit and providing rich soil for growing the soul.

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IDENTITY: The Practice of Telling Our Stories

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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On the Journey         Diane Markel

Tears wept
Allowed to flow down my face
From my eyes
To my heart
To my very soul.
These tears
These hot, sad pieces of salt water
Not from the ocean
But from my own eyes——
These tears, yes, indeed, a part of the ocean at one time

These tears are cleansing.
What to cleanse, you ask?

My soul’s soul—deep inside—cut to the quick by shards of pain
Cries out in the depths of shock and hurt and sadness and proliferating abundant soul sickness.
This ancient sickness festered until, years upon years later, it will come out
It does come out—in waves, salt-water waves, tsunami 20 foot high waves, crashing, lurching
Deep waves of grief—unknown, unknown ~~  until known and felt and expressed.
Ancient waves ~~ from this lifetime, perhaps another ??

How to cope? No, not cope, how to allow.
Allow the grief, allow the pain, allow the Energy to accept it all and
Hold it
Hold me
Hold the little girl,
The little baby,
The 3 year old, the 4 year old
The 5 year old
The adolescent

Then the 24 year old —— four months out of the convent
There she was
Drunk
Blacked out, stumbling, laughing
Was that laughter or . . .
Was that a fright
A frightened little girl, gasping to come out of the dark depths?
Raped
First experience
How awful
As she came to and saw it
And couldn’t feel it
And blacked out or
Passed out
What really happened?
I know
He knows

Next morning, driving home from the conference
The questions
The shame
The fear
The embarrassment

Never talked about it
To anyone
Not even herself

It lay there, hidden for years
until 2018
When this shell of a man twisted his face on the tv screen and scurried away
Denying any responsibility
Spewing anger and ludicrousness

Ah, the man, or shadow of the man
What to make of him?

The woman told her truth
Was she believed??
By some, she was.
By those who count.

She was brave.
No one can tell her she’s not beautiful.

She is Every Woman!
She is Me!
She is beautiful!

Love,
Me

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A Brief History of Nancy Reichow by Nancy Reichow

This brief narration of my life sums up how I feel when I look back over all I have done.

I Am the Luckiest Person I Know

I am the luckiest person I know, but I don’t necessarily believe in “luck”.   I basically believe all experience – both fortune and adversity –result from choices we make.

Some would say I was “unlucky” as child.  In 1944 I was part of a single parent family at five weeks old. My mother, older sister and I left my father and traveled by train to our grandparents’ home where we lived the first four and one-half years of my life. Those years encircled me with security and love.

At the age of four, I “got a new daddy” and announced it to the whole neighborhood.  I met my biological father for the first time at age nine.  The man who “gave me away” (Grandma’s words) was either a wonderful actor or a great dad.  He made me feel cherished each time I saw him.  Looking back, I was fortunate to have three extraordinary males — grandpa, daddy and dad — and a host of adoring females influence my life.

I married my high school sweetheart at 19.  Our high school friends thought I was incredibly lucky to have landed the boy voted “best looking” in our senior class.  On our wedding day, I was nearly three months pregnant with our first child.  Some would call my pregnancy bad luck because it cost me a four-year, full tuition scholarship; but I saw myself as fortunate.  I was “head over heels” in love with my husband and couldn’t wait to have our child.

During our marriage, three sons were born – all conceived in love – Michael, Jeffrey and Timothy.  Our third son entered the world with a birth defect – a hole connecting all four chambers of his heart.  Timothy lived two months – six weeks at home, two in the hospital.  His six weeks at home were dreadful.  I knew by the first week something was terribly wrong but couldn’t convince my doctor or my husband.  Hubby thought I was “losing my mind” because I was consumed with worry.  Doctor labeled me a hysterical mother whose child had colic.  In retrospect, I wasa raving lunatic – a mother who intuitively knew her child was dying.  Even as I grieved, I felt fortunate to have held and loved Timmy – even for a short time – and to have two other wonderful healthy sons.

Timothy’s short life, though tragic, precipitated my “coming of age” and set in motion a 13-year tutorial on trust and confidence in my knowledge and intuition.  The tutorial was a difficult course – one of verbal and emotional abuse, power and immobility, fear and hope, excuses (mine) for cruel behavior (his), and feelings of inadequacy.  For the first time in my life, I was a slow learner and my learning disability harmed my children, me and in some ways, and my husband.

Eventually I learned to trust myself and at age 40 we divorced.  Family members thought our divorce an adverse event. Michael and Jeffrey (20 and 18) considered it a release!  I regarded April 29, 1984, as my liberation day. Not to imply single life after nearly 21 years of marriage was easy.  It wasn’t.

I paid a price for freedom.  I chose not to see an attorney and left the marriage with very little.  I was forced from my home of 16 years and moved into a two-bedroom condo with Jeffrey and his bedroom furniture.  I also took a sofa, sofa sleeper (my bed) and a card table and chairs.  The table, chairs and sleeper were “on loan” from my ex until I purchased a dinette set and my own bed.  My household income decreased more than 80 percent and I had three mouths to feed!  The third was a kitten, a gift from Michael so I wouldn’t be lonely when Jeffrey left for college in the fall.

Having never lived alone or supported myself, the thought – let alone the actuality – was terrifying, daunting and … exciting.  I was determined to prove I could make it on my own.  A few floundering years later, I became the independent woman I longed to be.

During my “re-singled” years, I kissed a few frogs.  None turned into princes.  Bad luck? Absolutely not.  Each relationship helped me define what I wanted and needed from a relationship.  I became determined not to settle for less.

Just when I decided I could and would be happy single, my life changed.   On July 28, 1990, my best friend Debbie Cole arranged a blind date – my first and only in forty-six years.  I met Deane Reichow that night at Debbie’s house and we travelled to the Gasthous in Montreville, MN, for dinner and dancing with a group of 14 other people in our party.  He and I talked, laughed, sang and danced the polka all night.  We didn’t interact with any of the others in the party. On July 29 I called Debbie and announced, “I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”

Our meeting was not like a first date.  I felt as though I “recognized” Deane immediately.  Everything about him seemed familiar — as if we’d shared a life before.  It took him longer to realize we were “destined” to be together, but several months later he came to the same conclusion.  We were engaged March 31 and married August 24, 1991, the most fortunate day of my life.

We’ve had adversity along the way.  We disagree sometimes. I’m a neat-nick; he, not so much.  I follow rules; he believes in breaking them.  Still 27 years later, we are friends, lovers and soul mates.  I am the luckiest person I know.

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FAITH: The Practice of Living the Questions

Posted by on Oct 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Painting by Sheila Moriarty


Mysteries
by Sheila Moriarty

“It is a mystery,” Mother said, referring to the belief that there were three persons in one God. “There are many mysteries in life, Sheila. We have to take them on faith because we are not supposed to understand them.”

The Holy Trinity was only one such puzzle. Each week when Mother dragged me with her to visit the Copley Square Library in Boston, I gazed up at the painting on the ceiling from the wide marble stairway that led to the second floor. Spread across the wall was a giant size mural of three godlike men dressed like kings, each one of whom sat on a separate throne. A single cloak was wrapped around their shoulders to symbolize their three-in-oneness. As I felt them staring down at me with solemn faces, I felt they could swoop down and snatch away any child who asked too many questions.

Though I was only five, Mother loved taking me to museums. She hoped these trips might imprint on me in my earliest years her own love for culture and beauty. For Mother, the trips were her escape from the humdrum duties of domestic life at our rented flat back in Brighton. Although I let her know these excursions bored me, Mother answered that one day when I was older, I would thank her.

One of the things I did not ask questions about was childbirth. In our Irish Catholic family, it was easier to discuss the Holy Trinity than it was to find out where babies came from. As far as I could tell, Jesus had come from Mary the way light flows through a stained-glass window. It was called a Virgin Birth. What about me? I wondered how I came to exist in the first place?

“God has known you from eternity,” Sister said. “You were always in God’s mind. Once you are born, you go on being a person forever. If you fulfill God’s plan, you will live with Him in heaven. If not, you will spend an eternity in hell.” I liked the logic of it all. But what if I were not part of any plan? What if I had only been a speck of cosmic dust floating in the atmosphere? I shuddered to think of it.

My faith in God was tested early in my life. My parents noticed that my vision seemed poor. They decided to take me to see an optometrist. The doctor sat my five-year old body high up in the leather chair that was usually reserved for grown ups. He looked carefully into my eyes, using various optical instruments to complete the examination. Then he turned to my parents “Sheila has an astigmatism . Her right eye is slightly higher than her left one. I think Sheila will need to wear corrective lenses for the rest of her life.” For the rest of my life!

I felt as if someone had sentenced me to jail for a lifetime. The following week, as the doctor fitted my new glasses with pink plastic frames on my face, he looked at me kindly and said “What a shame to cover such beautiful blue eyes with glasses.”

This was the first time any one had ever noticed my beautiful blue eyes. And now they were going to be hidden behind these big ugly frames. I was angry. Whose fault was this? Was it God’s? Later on when I was alone in my room, I thought more deeply about God and my glasses. Had God made me wear glasses so I would not be proud of my beautiful blue eyes; or, had God given me beautiful blue eyes because he knew I would always need glasses.

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Photo by Peggy Ludtke

 

Immigration

It is our own fault
they prospered here.
At first a few white buttons
freckled the landscape,
straining for space.
Who could blame them
for wanting a home where
shadows are pushed back
behind long summer days?

Isn’t that what we all want to be promised?

Delighted, they waved to us.
We saw no reason not to wave back.
Their bright spirits disarmed us;
it was a gentle invasion.

We mowed around them,
let them make their own borders.
They mingled further into the grass.

Soon they were a crop
as if a greater plan was at work all
along; one hopeful bunch set free
rallied over one hillside, then another.

We could have cared less.
Now look at the infestation–
the pursuit of happiness, everywhere!
—Peggy Ludtke

 

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Photo by Peggy Ludtke

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Sanctuary

Where and what is supposed to be home?

Everything that was supposed to be family was taken from me.

Sometimes I think if I were thinner, I would find it

If I were not gay and trans and if I didn’t have a mental illness and if I weren’t unemployed or so emotional sometimes and if I had slightly better hair and if I didn’t have progressive politics

Or

if I were more queer, more radical in my beliefs

If I were cleaner, had more money, were smarter, funnier – a better teller of stories.

If I were not an orphan of sorts and if I spoke the right way and dressed the right way

If I were different.

Maybe I would find this thing called beloved-ness, called belonging.

If I found the right friends, more friends…

the thing is I have found some friends, and I have a partner to share my heart with.

But what I’m slowly coming to believe more and more often is that the people I’ve found who love me are not where I live.

Ive been fortunate though, because they have helped me return to the only thing and everything I’ll always have on this earth – MY life, MY body, MYself.

If I want community, I need only be where I am, as I am. An authentic part of a greater whole.

And if I want sanctuary – I can find it in the gentle kindness of my own small, precious breath.

—C.K.

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Walking this path has sent me on a journey of twist and turns. My soul and faith beckons me on.
– Ron Germundson

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Let Us Pray and Let Us Vote by Peggy Ludtke

This week I took my 86 year old mother to the Chisago County Government Center to vote. My mother doesn’t drive and has trouble standing for a long time but she’s is as sharp and savvy about her civic rights and responsibilities as anyone I know. We had tried to get her an absentee ballot, but when the ballot didn’t show up in her mailbox, with less than two weeks before the election, we worried it wouldn’t arrive in time. We opted to go with the other available choice, voting in person at the closest government center when hopefully there wouldn’t be a long line to stand in. She wanted to look over the ballot before she got there, so I plugged in her address online, and found a sample ballot and printed it out for her. As she ages, she seems to worry more about being rushed usually by someone younger getting impatient with her. When I am with her, I try to match her pace; it is a challenge sometimes to slow down to her speed, and yet I know it is a worthwhile discipline in understanding and love. She studied the ballot before we got in the car and drove the ten miles from her house to the government center. When we arrived, she said. “Oh, I remember being here with your Dad, before to see a lawyer.” Since we were entering the building and had to place our purses in a tray to be X-rayed, I forgot to ask her why they had come here to see a lawyer. Perhaps too I was distracted worrying that the process of voting early at the government center would be confusing or taxing for my elderly mother. It wasn’t. My mother went up to the counter and told the woman behind it, “I am here to vote.” The woman adjusted her glasses, smiled at my mother and handed her a form. “There is a place to sit down to your left, where you can fill this out and once you have, come back and I will hand you your ballot,” she said. My mother sat down, pulled out her I.D. and her reading glasses from her purse and went to work. When she went back to the counter with her form, she was handed her ballot and envelope. The woman told her there was no need to stand in the ballot booth to completely fill in the boxes next to her choices; she can sit back down at the table where she filled out he application. Somehow this government worker seemed to be in tune with my mother’s need to sit. Then back at the counter, mom was handed a glue stick to seal her ballot. “Thank you for voting.” the woman smiled again. “Would you like a sticker?” “Might as well,” my mother said peeling the red ‘I Voted’ sticker off the strip, and slapping it on her jacket. We both left the government center feeling in sync with the greater good. I am clinging to this experience with my mother on this Sunday morning as I sit in church. It has been a hard week of such malice, bombs sent through the mail targeting prominent Democrats, and yet another senseless hate crime leaving 11 people dead for worshipping in their faith. The rancor in this country is mortifying. When the minister says,“Let us pray and let us vote.” I chuckle to myself but then it hits me. Voting or helping someone to vote, or reminding people to vote can all be acts of love. Helping or reminding people to vote is believing their hopes and choices matter as much as yours. When you vote, you personally are putting your faith in someone who will do the best they can to lead us all forward. I realize this is a rosy-colored view of our divided country. No doubt some people fill out their ballot as a means to be against something or someone rather than for something or someone that will make our world kinder for all. Still, I choose to think of getting out the vote, my focus for the next 8 days as a loving act. That will keep me going until the votes are counted and We the People stride onward. So, is there anyone out there who needs a ride to the polls?

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SANCTUARY: The Practice of Finding Home

Posted by on Sep 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Painting by Sheila Moriarty


Painting by Sheila Moriarty

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Photo by Mary Kurth

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Photo by Mary Kurth

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Here are my interpretations of the theme “Sanctuary,” taken at Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, France. –Ken Stewart

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GRATITUDE: the practice of reckoning

Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

This is my first dog Lily. I remain grateful for the unconditional regard in which she held me. - Ellen Lowery

This is my first dog Lily. I remain grateful for the unconditional regard in which she held me.
- Ellen Lowery

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Humanist Haiku

Manifested true
Into people together,
Unified, transformed
—Jocelyn Stein

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PROMISES: the practice of creating the world

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Ellen Lowery

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Random or Divine?  by Don Lifto

Fifteen billion years.

Big Bang regurgitation.

Random or divine?

The meditative song, “Where Do We Come From?” is based on an oil painting by French artist, Paul Gauguin.  It chants three fundamental questions about the universe:  Where do we come from?  What are we?  Where are we going?  These three questions are framed in the reproduction of Gauguin’s painting below.  The artist encourages us to interpret the painting from right to left.  The three women and child on the right of the painting symbolize the beginning of life.  The middle section represents the daily experience of young adulthood.  The composition on the left is most complex and depicts the end of life with an old woman approaching death.  Gauguin includes a white bird to represent the futility of words and a blue image to suggest the beyond.  Reflecting on the painting, the artist was quoted as saying, “I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all of my preceding ones, but that I shall never do anything better – or even like it.”

The setting for these larger than life questions is our shared universe, which scientists estimate is about 15 billion years old.  This is unfathomable to me in terms of both its seemingly endless, refluent passage of time and its disputed origin.  As the Haiku questions, was the creation of the universe random or divine – a deliberate engineering by an omnipotent force, or a big bang explosion of cosmic elements swirling about randomly for eons, without the benefit of a divine architect?

Gauguin’s unusual painting and the song it inspired provide us with both visual and auditory stimulation from which to reflect of life’s most fundamental questions.

Where Do We Come From?

I don’t know.

What are we?

Soulful beings.

Where are we going?

I don’t know.

The meditative chant concludes with what for me and many others is a central truth and an understated reality: “Life is a riddle and a mystery.”

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SOULWORK: the practice of centering

Posted by on Mar 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Hummingbird by Karen DahlI spent several hours watching for hummingbirds thru the lens of my camera. I was propped against a screen door with Lake Superior in the foreground, but I was lost in my focus on the hummingbird feeder. It was a happy surprise when I saw that the Lake was also captured in the nectar bowl. 

The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.
– Koun Yamada

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Pond by Karen Dahl

Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be.
– Eckhart Tolle

Chairs by Karen Dahl


Chairs by Karen Dahl
I forget sometimes that it is OK to sit. And it doesn’t have to be an invitation from a mossy seat. Sometimes it can just be a view: a sunset, chickens pecking in a yard, or birds at a feeder. Sit, enjoy.

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.
– Shunryu Suzuki


Photo by Karen Dahl


Photo by Ken Stewart

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DISRUPTION: the practice of being fully present

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

 What is exposed when there is a tear in the fabric of things? -Ken Stewart

What is exposed when there is a tear in the fabric of things?
-Ken Stewart

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Rebel

Although it has been years,
in autumn,
when the sumac firelights the roadsides
filling the air,
not with smoke but with clarity,
I am on the farm again.

I breathe the warm snorting
smell of his blackness, grip
him tight with legs and hands
as we cross the fields
with the speed of geese in flight.

The fields are black, too,
ready for winter to etch
their clods with frost,
stiffening them like Lot’s wife.

But I do not look back,
for I am fifteen and ready.
I match my rhythm to his,
fast walk, trot and then–
In one enormous exhalation–
we are stretching out,
beyond the farm, the fields, the woods,
beyond the highway leading into town.

Into Saturday,
into summer,
into hills and dark mountains,
possibilities coming faster and faster,
my hair streams behind
like a comet’s corona,
two times around the sun,
leaping planets, dodging meteors.

Yes, sometimes in autumn…

-Jean Doolittle

 

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HOSPITALITY: the practice of belonging

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

Welcoming unexpected guests. -Ellen Lowery

Welcoming unexpected guests.
-Ellen Lowery

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Snow On Branches After the snow storm -  designer trees laced with white greet my  friends at my door. -Gail Diez

Snow On Branches
After the snow storm -
designer trees laced
with white greet my
friends at my door.
-Gail Diez

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Belonging by Don Lifto

Enveloped in love;
grounded like roots of an oak.
Holding fast to life.

Feeling alone at times is a shared human experience.  Sometimes aloneness is simply being lonesome, longing for company and the satisfaction of togetherness with family or a friend.  On some days feeling alone is occasioned by fear and a realization that a problem or situation must be confronted by yourself or a sense that no one can hear your plea for help.  Alone can also take on the form of desperation or depression when life’s circumstances feel overwhelmingly crushing in their intensity or perceived consequences.

Although we know being alone, in all of its forms, is part of life, the Haiku “Never Alone” shines a light in a different direction.  This light illuminates love as the antidote to all forms of aloneness, holding us fast to life like the intertwined roots of an oak tree.  Enveloped by a love that is ours to give and ours to receive.
So how does one recapture this sense of love, belonging and safety when the yoke of aloneness weighs so heavily on our shoulders?  There is no answer to this question, of course, because everyone has to find their own path out of the sometimes dark woods.  In recent years, I have used meditation and mantra to capture the power of nominalism – finding the reality of love’s healing powers by naming it such.  In doing so I am able to refocus my thinking and calm my spirit when feeling alone:

May my heart be filled with loving kindness.

May I be free from suffering.
May I be happy and at peace.

Repeating this message in a meditative chant can help regain my sense of balance and keep me in the moment.  I use this same meditation when “sending love” to others by simply replacing “I” and “My” with the other person’s name.

I believe we are never alone if we consciously open our soul’s window to radiant love – ever present, abundant and healing to the soul. Phillip Booth wrote a beautiful poem [First Lesson] about overcoming aloneness and fear with rich images of love in the form of cupped hands and the buoyancy of the sea.  It is shared in full below.

Labyrinth:  Wandering through San Francisco with no destination in mind but, as always, drawn to elevations, I found myself entering Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, tailing another wanderer. I had not hesitated to enter, and once inside, was filled with a sense of arrival, wonder, and welcome as the labyrinth embraced me, pulled me in further, and held me until I was ready to leave.


Photo by Laurie Kigner

Labyrinth:

Wandering through San Francisco with no destination in mind but, as always, drawn to elevations, I found myself entering Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, tailing another wanderer. I had not hesitated to enter, and once inside, was filled with a sense of arrival, wonder, and welcome as the labyrinth embraced me, pulled me in further, and held me until I was ready to leave.

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sound in my life. Sound is present in all of my memories. There was only one thing I was forgetting; I am Deaf. I can’t hear song lyrics, I can’t hear the ocean while I am swimming in it, I can’t hear people when they turn away from me. I am Deaf. I realized, that although I needed the hearing world, I needed something else too- something only the Deaf world could provide. A common bond with the Deaf community- we all struggle to hear in a LOUD environment.

Last year, all of these thoughts were constantly running through my head. Now, looking back, I have come to the conclusion that I need to have a balance. A balance of both worlds; I can be a part of the hearing world, but I can also be a part of the silent.

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Hen and Chicks: Though it was two years ago, I still smile in delight when remembering this hen providing warmth, shelter, and such a clear sense of home and belonging to her chicks on a finger numbing morning in SW Utah. This image is one simple definition of community - a circle [of feathers] that opens to receive us.

Hen and Chicks:
Though it was two years ago, I still smile in delight when remembering this hen providing warmth, shelter, and such a clear sense of home and belonging to her chicks on a finger numbing morning in SW Utah. This image is one simple definition of community – a circle [of feathers] that opens to receive us.
- Laurie Kigner

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