Category Archives: spirit

Gardening wisdom: How does your garden grow?

“Gardens, like lives, require choices. What will we let grow? What will we encourage? What needs cutting back because it’s growing too wildly and out of control? What’s crowding out what you really want in life?” —Rev. Sharon Moon

red-roseI listened to a reflection by Rev. Sharon Moon about spiritual wisdom gained in a garden.

It’s true, isn’t it? When we putter in our flower beds and dig in our dirt, we “plug in,” as she calls it, to a different energy level—a spirit channel, if you will.

At least some of us do. I enjoy my time in a garden and I do “plug in” to an infinite place, but I have many friends who regard gardening as a chore. But no matter whether a person loves or loathes a horticultural pursuit, the activities, complexities, the growth, the pruning and the death in gardens so closely mirrors our human existence that we can learn from them.

We learn to be ready for surprises: the flower you didn’t plant that suddenly appears or the tender sprouts you admire one day gone the next thanks to a hungry rabbit.

We learn that sometimes a plant needs to be moved to an area better suited to its needs.

We learn that when a long, cold winter buries treasures under snow, it is easy to forget the bounty we have.

We learn that weeds are inevitable, and that a garden left untended quickly becomes overgrown and filled up with “things that come in and just steal the energy from the life that you want to encourage.”

As Sharon Moon points out, a garden teaches us that pruning is a good thing—cutting out the dead wood that no longer serves a purpose. A garden teaches us to give of ourselves—generous perennial dividing and sharing for the good of both the plant and the recipient. A garden teaches us that “a material that has been allowed to die transforms into new growth.”

What is happening in your garden these days? Are you bursting with new growth? Do you have weeds that need careful pulling? Have you had a shock or trauma that requires you to take some fallow time? Do you need some support and attention from “the Gardener”?

How does your garden grow?

_________

Listen to her reflection here:

Gardening God

http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/reflections/gardening-god/

The inevitable weed

The inevitable weed

 

 

The spirituality of sports

Take a moment with me to pity sporting events. They get very little respect from those who spend their days contemplating spiritual matters. Meditation, journaling, dancing or yoga make the grade for spiritual enrichment, but not sports. The idea that a person might experience transcendence during a sporting activity? Well, that receives a dismissive sniff. All too often, sports get shunted aside as “fun-but-hardly-spiritual.”

Let’s consider:
Activity: A man walks in the woods and feels at one with the trees around him.
Perception: He experiences the “All is One” of spirit.

Activity: A baseball player gets “In the zone,” slows down the ball and goes 4 for 4 at the plate.
Perception: She is swinging a hot bat.

Activity: A meditator focuses on her breath and stays present.
Perception: She is practising mindfulness and living the power of now.

Activity: A hockey goalie stays in the moment and performs well under the intense pressure of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final.
Perception: He is mentally strong.

Activity: A dancer experiences transcendence induced by the music rhythm.
Perception: She is at one with God.

Activity: A tennis player experiences transcendence induced by the movement rhythm.
Perception: He maintains his focus.

Too bad. Athletes might not use the words “spirit” or “God” when participating in their sports, but they share similar experiences, and they reap the same benefits of those who do. Sports teach us about the human condition, relieve stress and depression, and awaken us to the message of life.

According to Psychology Today, Everyday Health and The Huffington Post, these are the benefits of spirituality. I put a check mark beside them for sports too.

  • Provides clarity and cultivates awareness (√ Check)
  • Lifts mood and prevents depression (√ Check)
  • Creates steadiness and grounding (√ Check)
  • Helps you see the big picture of life (√ Check)
  • Puts you in touch with your inner self (√ Check)
  • Keeps you in the moment (√ Check)
  • Gives “the assurance of practice being there for you at all times” (√ Check)
  • Boosts health and well-being (√ Check)
  • Restores a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem (√ Check)
  • Relieves stress (√ Check)
  • Connects people with others (√ Check)
  • Promotes self-actualization (√ Check)
  • Builds lasting memories (√ Check)
  • Encourages participants to let go of the ego (√ Check)

Sports give us heroes that transcend the game: Lou Gehrig. Sports advance social change: Jackie Robinson. Sports shine a spotlight on big societal problems: When the Baltimore Orioles played to an empty stadium, it was a siren warning. “Something is seriously wrong, and something needs to change.”

From pick-up hockey games on frozen backyard rinks to the Olympic podium, sports teach us about life.

We learn:

  • You can be an instant hero and fall flat in the same game.
  • There are rules, and with good reason.
  • You can be the very best at something, and still lose.
  • Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is a millimetre or a hundredth of a second.
  • You can’t win them all.
  • Some days things work, and some days they don’t.
  • Things don’t always balance out.
  • On any given day, anything can happen.
  • You can make mistakes and still come back.
  • You need patience and endurance.
  • It humbles you. You never stop learning.
  • You cry, you get frustrated, and you celebrate.
  • You play it one day at a time.
  • “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” —Yogi Berra

Here’s a timely quote from a well-known athlete: “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability; it was my mental ability.” —Bruce Jenner.

Social change in action.

“The five Ss of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.” —Ken Doherty
The spirit of skiing

The spirit of skiing

 

 

 

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”

It is a Good Friday to remember that sorrow is joy’s twin.


“On Joy and Sorrow” from The Prophet —Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

el-cristo-de-la-concordia

El Cristo de la Concordia, Cochabamba, Bolivia

 

A tiger and the villagers; An owl and the cows

Strange bedfellows make great stories, don’t they?

This week, CBC news reported the unusual friendship between a red-tailed hawk and some cows. In case you don’t live in Canada, or have somehow not seen a weather forecast in the past few months, the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada experienced crazy, knock-your-socks-off, don’t-leave-your-house-for-days snowstorms—repeatedly. In early February, Charlottetown, PEI received five feet of snow in a two-week period, and the storms just kept coming.

Unusual weather makes living creatures do unusual things. To escape the wild snowstorms, a red-tailed hawk took refuge in a barn. The storms were so frequent and of such extended duration, the hawk and the cows became friends.

(Awww . . .)

A few years ago I read about an Amur tiger in the Russian Far East Primorye who actively sought out human assistance. Sadly, human activity caused him to need help in the first place; the tiger had a paw caught in a poacher’s trap. Weakened and in pain, the tiger cried out as it approached people.

(A red-tailed hawk is one thing, but a tiger?)

If only we could figure out a way to discover the kinship of strange bedfellows before a crisis. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

The universe conspires with you

 

universe-coelho

I love the book The Alchemist, and I find its author, Paulo Coelho, inspirational as a writer and a human being. 

Many people don’t agree. I made a visit to the “1 star” section of the Goodreads reviews of The Alchemist and discovered myriad variations on the “What a load of tripe” theme.

Those readers didn’t fall in with the fabled story of a hero journey. They didn’t buy the life wisdoms like the one quoted above. After all, since when does everyone in the universe get what they want? And what about good people who end up suffering?

Coelho recently responded to those concerns with this:

“I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings ‘there no other virtue than being brave’. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.”

I think he means this: If you have the ability to complain about NOT getting what you want, then that means that you’re still breathing, and your story is not over yet. There’s still time. 

Get busy. Work hard. Stop whining, because if you don’t, all you’ll get is more of the same. Fight past all those things you fear. Don’t let them paralyze you into inaction.

If you do, you might be amazed at the machinations of the universe. 

___________________

Consider Paulo Coelho’s 25 Important Points. Read them here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/09/03/25-important-points/

What is The Divine?

Last year I was part of a group that drafted a new mission statement for our church. One of our biggest questions? What word to use to describe the “awesomeness.”

God? A turn-off to too many people. The Holy? People said to us, “What does that even mean?” Spirit? Conjures up images of ghosts. Source? Doesn’t quite cover it. Creator? Edges into the whole evolution/intelligent design controversy.

We settled on The Divine. This did not go unchallenged. Grammar purists argued, “Divine is an adjective.” Others thought it too vague. It’s not perfect, but it was as close as we could come to capturing the elusive, thin-place feeling of Perfect Moments.

And what is a Perfect Moment? 

It’s different for everyone, and never the same twice. If you try for it, it escapes your grasp. But you know it when it descends upon you unbidden. It doesn’t have to be in an Ashram or in deep meditation, although it can be. It happens in grocery stores, restaurants or (often) on a walk in the woods. Usually it is deceptively simple, so that when it’s over, people wonder, “Did that really happen?”

We celebrate New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. One New Year’s Eve, many years ago, we met as usual, relaxed together, and our children entertained each other in the play room. We gathered around the kitchen table. Through ceiling-high windows that lined one wall of the room, I watched inch-wide snow flakes drifting down and settling into fluffy banks. Christmas tree lights reflected in the glass. Children’s laughter wafted to us from a distance. The moment began to take on a special quality of timelessness, almost a buzzing. I felt part of the scene and apart from it. A witness. I looked at the snow, the lights, my friends, and I thought, “This is a Perfect Moment.”

I savoured it until the special quality dissipated with that noticeable shift back to reality and then moved on. I thought the moment was mine alone.

Later, one of my friends told me, “You know, I remember one New Year’s Eve, we were in the kitchen and the snow was falling, and the kids were playing and for a short time I was struck by how perfect the moment was.”

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe that we had shared the Perfect Moment, the thin place, the awesomeness, together.

It might have come from God, Spirit, Creator or Source, and it felt Holy, but it was above all, Divine.

_______________

Read our mission statement here: http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/about-trinity/momentum-for-mission/

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