Lake of Sparkling Waters

You are well named, Lake Ontario.
Diamonds grace your waves,
taking my breath away and
filling me with Spirit.

Your surface sports no
diamonds in the rough, but
diamonds enough for all.
And these glories are free –
not bought or sold or stolen.

These diamonds are magical, mystical, mysteria,
flying from wave to wave
they ground me on the water.

This lake is a font of Spirit,
a fountain of light, a sight which
will never leave me even while
leaving me transfixed.

Notice What You Feel

When I was younger, I used to think it important to be strong. Now I know it is wiser to be flexible and balanced.

This applies to many levels – intellectual, spiritual, physical, etc. – but I am increasingly convinced that intellectual and spiritual insights have to be grounded in physical practices. I have always been physically active and have written in other posts about the ways in which running has been spiritually and intellectually enriching. But over the last few years I have been spending more and more time trying to keep limbs and such malleable and have mused often about trying yoga.

I decided that this recent lock-in was a good time to give it a go, and so I asked my daughters, who are my doctors in many ways, for advice and they suggested “Yoga with Adriene.” Adriene Mishler recently completed a 30-day program called “Home” and so I began watching her January 2020 series on YouTube some days ago. I just finished day 22 with the theme of “Stir.”

On day 22 Adriene made a comment that gave me pause. She said “You should not be in pain, but we do want to be in a place where we can observe sensation.” I am a beginner, but what is slowly coming to clarity for me is the goal of getting your body into a place where some new awareness of what you physically feel is evident. She often says “scan your body,” or “pay attention to what your body is saying to you,” or “notice what you feel” or like. When I was younger, I played football, where strength was king, and no-one invited us to “notice what you feel.” Numbness rather than awareness seemed to be the goal. I recall, for instance, a drill where we would jog on the spot and at the blow of a whistle fall jarringly to ground: no pain, no gain. Perhaps things have changed. I hope so.

In yoga we are invited over and over again to observe breath, body, and the beat of the heart. Balance and malleability are the collateral benefits of a practice that is about getting to know the body and so the self. There is a spiritual tradition associated with yoga, and the practice of yoga in North America has sometimes been criticized for underplaying this. I do not really know enough at this point to weigh in on the critique, but I know that the attention to the breath in my daily time with Adriene has caused me to think deeply on the breath of God: the Holy Spirit.

Next month I will be teaching an intensive course remotely called Spirit and Community. The theme of body should loom large when Christians think about community (often called the body of Christ) and the Breath that animates it. If the bible sees the body as a fit cypher for the spiritual community of Christ, then we need to take a careful look at how we apprehend the body. Although much still needs to be decided in how the course will proceed, one thing is clear to me. A healthy body is balanced and flexible. This is true for physical bodies and for communal bodies. How could it be any different for communal bodies that are Spirited?

The Wood of Your Children

Far away, in the north – home
to winters cold and forests old –
You play and so
stay my constant queries,
my daily demands. You
refuse to be the mirror of
my desire, as You stretch
in the wood of Your children.
Yet my longing is not not sated
in Your absence. Echoes
of divine Sabbath are
borne on the North Wind, and
when I open my window, You
fill the room, along with the whiff of pine
as I pine for You. Awaiting Your
return from rest, I am arrested
by this awareness that even
You, God, take leave for
a time.

Divine Lips to Clay

What is this place that
calls me – arrests me – freezes me
in my frenzied,
in my harried
activity?

Something
inside of me knows
that this flurry of
importance:

starting this

building that

saving this

securing that

is simply not
enough; is simply
too much.

Deep
inside I want
this flesh to
know that it
lives in the sweep of

a pillar of fire

and under

a columned cloud.

I want my body to
sing or better yet to
whistle
as God
again puts divine lips
to clay and blows.

Setting Sail on Whitsunday

Santa Maria

Santa Maria

 

Santa Maria went in the water this week. I was down to the marina yesterday to do some work in preparation of raising the mast: a little cleaning, a new light for the mast, pumping out the bilge. There is always something to be done on a boat. Sometimes that something is even sailing this ship.

It is interesting to note that the Latin word for ship – nave – is used for the worship area proper in a church. The church is likened to a boat. The most common reason given is that the ship functions rather like the ark of old: a safe haven while billows rage. Obviously, scribblers of holy writ never sailed with me.

I am a novice sailor and for my few years of sailing, long is the list of things gone wrong. A pair of glasses have gone overboard (along with every sort of tool), our engine has stalled at the most inopportune moments, rocks and shoals have been broached, sheets (ropes for land lovers) have tangled, and once the mast came a-tumbling down. Thankfully no-one has ever been hurt. It was only this last year that my brave wife and I have garnered enough confidence to take passengers on board. So when my legs scissor over the life line and bid land farewell my heart skips a beat: excitement beckons. But it is excitement precisely because an element of risk informs this activity. Sailor knows well the power of water and wind. Ships really do go down.

But even so, there is also a kind of comfort on the Santa Maria. Today I had my first 2013 lunch aboard our boat. I reclined in the cockpit, stretched out my feet, and imbibed my open-face sandwich while watching the long weekend unfold in the marina. I love lounging to the rocking motion of a boat in bay. The sight of cormorants in flight pulls a certain peace from the sky to my eye, to my heart, to my very being. People padding down the docks with ship’s wares – tendering their comforts to vessels of adventure – speak to me of the paradox of life. Just like life, this Santa Maria both animates and pacifies me; it simultaneously satisfies and unsettles me.

Today, “Pentecost Sunday” or “Whitsunday,” is celebrated in churches in the western tradition. This is sometimes called the birthday of the church; the animating and comforting of the church by the Spirit, by the Holy Wind who both drives us beyond comfort zones and soothes our souls. Wild and warm, this Sirocco can be trusted but never second guessed. When we bid land adieu, we broach a new way of being in the world: we sail with a heel, travelling aslant to the perpendicular, wise to the will of the wind, and finding ourselves smiling and glad for the adventure that is life.