A note from Erin:
some snapshots of The Encouragement of Light Retreat at Ghost Ranch
I’d love to begin by sharing a poem, which is really a benediction perfect for these times, from Mark Nepo.
Be A Circle
I wish you the ability to breathe
after pain, to begin again, though
nothing else seems possible.
I wish you resilience: to part like
the ocean and accept like the sky.
I wish you survival: to take in life
like a trapped miner finding an
airhole and praising it as God.
I wish you courage: to ask of
everything you meet, “What
bridge are we?”
I wish that the kindness-that-you-
are can brighten your way,
like orange leaves falling
about the face of a doe.
I wish you endless journey
that seldom appears
as we imagine.
I wish you curiosity: to make
a boat of wonder and an
oar of gratitude.
So much yes. I wish it for all of us.
I’m sorry we missed writing to you last week – I had just returned from our wonderful retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, and just received news that my beloved Nana had passed away. It’s so how the world is – isn’t it? Beauty and ruin. Inspiring and awful. Heartwrenching and heartwarming. I recently had one of those facebook memories pop up of a video I’d shared years ago of Francis Weller speaking about grief in his numinous way. In it he says something I’ve quoted numberless times – about the importance of a mature human being being able to fully hold grief in one hand, and at the same time to fully hold gratitude in the other. He adds, “When one can do this, then one is fully in the prayer of life.” You can watch him here.
It’s a raw, authentic, human place to live, that full welcoming of the whole mix.
It’s part of why I love this autumnal season so viscerally. The sweet scent of decay. The exquisite appeal of trees giving up their gold, amber, and scarlet beauty as they prepare to hibernate. The chill and the coziness. Harvest and loss. I love Weller’s words: to truly let all this live simultaneously in our hearts, we enter the prayer of life. I want to enter. And live there.There’s so much opportunity, isn’t there?
I have a friend whose mom has cancer and who just got her own suspicious mammogram results. Another friend held her beloved dog’s head in her lap as he died a few days ago. Another friend’s husband, brought to the country when he was just a toddler, is sitting with the daily terror of a sudden deportation, and the psychological distress of living in such worry. One friend is grieving that she’ll never have her own children. And another is thrilled that with medical interventions, she’s about to give birth. People who love each other are getting married. Others whose love decayed are separating. And out of the broken heart, making gorgeous music, poetry, art, or life-changes. My son is beautiful and hilarious and smart and kind. Hurricanes and shootings happen alongside stunning manifestations of kindness and creativity. On the very mundane side – we finally replaced our broken fridge – yippee! And now we hear squirrels running around in the walls and ceiling.
It’s a gorgeous day and my heart hurts so good. I’m so sad my Nana is gone, and so happy for the time I had with her. I’m looking forward to crying my eyes out with my family as we celebrate her awesomeness.
What a mix. May we realize our capacity to be vast – to make room for it all and step fully into the prayer of life, in all its excruciating glory.
May the-kindness-that-we-are touch everything.
May we row together in that boat of wonder with oars of gratitude.
May we use whatever arises in support of unfolding the kind, wise, compassionate heart of awakening. With love,