Return to the Body

The first step on a spiritual path today is a return to a sense of one’s own body.
— Martha Heyneman

My Body/Your Body

Age is like a prankster. I wake up with a weird pain in my big toe. Later, I bend over easily in my flower garden to pull weeds, but it takes an eternity to straighten up again. In the evening, on my way to bed, I lose my balance and trip over my cat who runs zigzag in front of my feet and end up in the ER with a broken wrist. Despite all my education in aging, a part of me screams at my body: You’ve got to be kidding me! This isn’t the “me” I recognize; this is my mother! Now, I have to give over enormous amounts of time and effort to take care of you — stretching, exercise, salad spinning — when before you just seemed to go along for the ride. I can’t ignore you anymore!

One thing I have learned as a mind-oriented woman growing old fast is that I can’t disregard the body as a second-class citizen. . . . read more

The Open-Ended House

Open-ended: That’s how I describe the home where my husband and I now live. Since we purchased our well-worn (shabby-sans-chic) historic house 3 years ago, we have been renovating and restoring. For us, it’s a matter of DIY (do it yourself) on a shoestring budget.

Despite our busy lives, we’ve managed to restore a great deal—with a lot of help from our friends. But nothing is finished; nothing is ever finished. If you’ve ever tried to restore an old home, you know what I mean. Just when you think you can breathe that long-awaited sigh, your eyes follow the wall up to an unsightly gap in the old trim. You decide to cover a radiator and it leads to the need for seat cushions which leads to the need for matching that material to the kitchen chairs which leads to recovering the chairs which leads to reorienting the budget which leads to rethinking the bathroom project entirely, ad infinitum. As Margo Kaufman says, “Remodeling is like pulling a loose thread on a cheap sweater — the job keeps unraveling.” . . . . more

Mysteries and the Spiritual Sleuth

Remember Algebra class and “solving for x”? A puzzle. An Unknown. A math mystery. Turns out, math and the spiritual life are not so far apart. In fact, in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, x is a symbol for “The Mystery” — the spiritual home for the great mystics and a vital part of every spiritual journey. Mystery, or the “Great Unknown,” invites us to make room in our souls for mystery, intrigue, and the ineffable “more-ness” of the spiritual adventure. But like math class, could part of that lavish landscape of spiritual unknowns include not only sacred mysteries, but very worldly ones as well?

To be honest, if I were given a word association test with the word, “Mystery,” I would surely blurt out “Agatha Christie!” As an avid fan of classic Whodunnit mysteries, I sometimes wonder if these entertaining books about clues and suspects and puzzling out the truth are contributing anything to my spiritual life. Does the murder mystery sleuth and spiritual sleuth have anything in common? . . . . Click here to read entire essay

Weaving the Shadow

Dark Shadows

When I was thirteen, my friend Debra and I would walk to her house after school, plop down on the floor in front of the TV and glue our eyes on the spooky soap opera Dark Shadows. We were so engrossed by the evil vampire, Barnabas Collins, we hardly paid attention to the snacks Debra’s mother had ready for usAfter a day of muddling through math problems and sentence diagrams, nothing less than this delicious dish of melodrama — now considered a cult classic — could suffice. In my parents’ childhood, evil “lurked” on the radio show The Shadow, which provided the same devilish entertainment. I knew it was all fantasy and fun. Not until I grew older did it dawn on me that the shadow was real. It may not drink our blood and cast curses, but as Carl Jung reminds us, “everyone carries a shadow.” And it features prominently in the spiritual journey. That is why, in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, “S” is for shadow. . . MORE

When All the Leaves Are Gone

“In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.” ― Cynthia Rylant

For many of us, the end of November is littered with tall yard bags bulging with dry, brittle leaves. The heavy-laden bags are set out at the curb and picked up by big trucks in the early morning. We dust off our hands and heave a sigh of relief mixed with sadness. It’s over. The brilliance of fall waves goodbye in windy gusts of brown detritus. Nature now transitions—with a decided edge of melancholy—to ever-colder, darker days, culminating in the Winter Solstice.

The attenuated light seems to mirror our declining hopes for holidays-as-usual.  In fact, this year will be quite different. We feel that instinctive need for family and friends more than ever this year because it has been, by all accounts, a tough year; yet, we know that to have loved ones outside the home around us now would be to perpetuate the virus and endanger everyone’s lives. Oh, the injustice of it all! But our cries get no sympathy from COVID-19. . . MORE