Genuine Broken Heart

In the very middle of the chest, deep deep inside
Something has broken
And it hurts almost all the time.
Sometimes it gives birth to anxiety, fear, and panic.
Sometimes it gives birth to anger, resentment and blame.
Sometimes it gives birth to tears.
This is our kinship with all who have loved truly—
From beginningless time.
You, my dear friend, understand it well
This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion.
It humbles The Arrogant and softens The Unkind.
This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great
It awakens Those who prefer to seep and pierces through
This continual ache of the human heart—
broken by Loss of all that we hold dear
Is this not a blessing
Which when accepted fully—can be shared
With all?

—Ani Pema Chodron

QUESTION: Can I act on this wisdom teaching in the midst of such turbulent political times in our national history?

Reflection: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….I hear a part of me calling to reach beyond the turbulence of my reactions to the first 10 days of the new Administration.  Resistance, opposition (vital as it might be) is not enough for my soul.  I am pulled to try to engage across the divide, even in the face of disdain or dismissal.  Aren’t we capable of holding conflicting perspectives on pressing issues such as immigration, violence, economic suffering (to name just a few) in a safe and respectful dialogue with a purpose of finding a common good? I am greatly influenced in this regard by Parker Palmer’s book, Healing The Heart Of Democracy, The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. Pema Chodron’s poem offers a “heart-breaking” invitation.

I Am Not Among the Early Risers


A Few Stanzas From A Poem By Mary Oliver

Here is an amazement—once I was twenty years old and in
    every motion of my body there was delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
    a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace—the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
    not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

    I bow down.

Have I not loves as though the beloved could vanish t any moment,
or become preoccupied, or whisper a name other than mine
    in the stretched curvatures of lust, or over the dinner table?
Have I ever taken good fortune for granted?


Reflection: These few words in Mary Oliver’s poem grabbed me tightly, but without an immediate understanding.  I’m not sure that I still understand, but I know they speak to something important beneath the surface of my consciousness.  Although I turn 72 in June, I don’t sense the transition from youth to older age, especially physically. In many ways, much seems the same.  I am certain that in many respects, I have taken good fortune for granted.  However, the wisdom learning that has come to me in he last 10 years of life has clearly expanded my horizons beyond the illusions and attachments of false self even as the same darkness hovers overhead. But I sometimes remember to bow down in gratitude at the awareness of Presence, True Self, the Oneness and Mystery of all Creation, and our compassionate and merciful Father/Mother who holds me/us in loving kindness. I pray that such amazement will frequently visit.

If I Wanted A Boat

If I Wanted A Boat
by Mary Oliver, Blue Horses

“I would want a boat, if I wanted a
boat, that bounded hard on the waves,
that didn’t know starboard from port
and wouldn’t learn, that welcomed
dolphins and headed straight for the
whales, that, when rocks were close,
would slide in for a touch or two,
that wouldn’t keep land in sight and
went fast, that leaped into the spray.
What kind of life is it always to plan
and do, to promise and finish, to wish
for the near and the safe?  Yes, by the
heavens, if I wanted a boat I would want
a boat that I couldn’t steer.”

QUESTION: What could I risk not steering in 2017?

Reflection: Yikes, is Mary Oliver serious?  Wanting something, anything, I could not steer or control sounds suicidal to an Enneagram 1.  I know, I know, control is a mere illusion, but it feels as necessary as breathing to me. However, part of me gets it, if only in fleeting moments, when I receive recognition of the larger truth, my True Self.  But it fades almost instantly when the next moment of decision or action enters my awareness.  Still, I have a memory of that fleeting recognition, and a trust that it will return from time to time. So rather than falling into the trap of trying to answer the question with a concrete goal, I suspect that all I can do is simply to pray for my openness to receive the larger truth, my True Self’s presence, whenever it shows up, and let the illusion of control fade.  The upcoming year poses any number of candidates for trying to let go of control, but I suspect it will be a fool’s gold search for me.


When Rumi went into the tavern
I followed.
I heard a lot of crazy talk
and a lot of wise talk.

But the roses wouldn’t grow in my hair.

When Rumi left the tavern
I followed.
I don’t mean just to pick at
such a famous fellow.
Indeed he was rather ridiculous with his
long beard and his dusty feet.
But I heard less of the crazy talk and
a lot more of the wise talk and I was
hopeful enough to keep listening

until the day I found myself
transformed into an entire garden
of roses. 

– Mary Oliver

QUESTION: What is happening unnoticed in your life?

December is upon us and with it the mad rush of “holiday” activities for the next month or so. Simultaneously, Advent is upon us with the often unremarkable spiritual preparations for the celebration of Christmas. Is it just an annual repetition of ritual activities? Or is something else also occurring within me, something I don’t see, take note of, or realize?  I wonder if, for me, I keep looking, even longing, to find a rose growing in my narrow (ego) life while I fail to notice the entire garden into which I am being transformed.  The most recent edition of Rohr’s Oneing journal pulls me into the mind-altering wonder of evolutionary expansiveness while the deaths of six family members or friends in the last six months closes me off to expansive imagining. Perhaps during the busyness, the advent of winter, and the numbness of December, I will notice the slow, persistent, and subtle emergence of a garden taking root all around and within me. At least, that is my prayer.