Thursday, March 14, 2019

Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Something happens in that quiet place, where we’re simply alone and listening to nothing but our hearts. It’s not loneliness, that aloneness. It’s rather the solitude of the soul, where we are grounded more deeply in our own internal depths. Then, having connected more deeply to God, we’re able to connect more deeply with each other. Our connection to the divine unlocks our connection to the universe.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "Christmas for Mystics"
The Huffington Post

As I've noted previously, ever since moving to the U.S. from Australia in 1994 I've had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with winter in Minnesota.

I loathe, for instance, the cold and the ice (the snow, it's true, I'm not quite as adverse to). On the other hand, I appreciate the pronounced seasons of my second home here in the North Star State, seasonal changes that are quite different from those in Australia.

I appreciate, too, how winter stirs in me the desire to go deep, to retreat and take stock of my life in ways that are quiet and mindful. And, of course, I love the festivals of this time of year, Winter Solstice and Christmas, with all their rich and interconnected symbolism.

I'm definitely not one who tries to conquer winter. By this I mean I'm okay with allowing winter's adverse attributes to influence my decision-making around where and when I go places. True, such attributes don't totally dictate my movements, but for sure I'm much more inclined to bend like a reed to the season's call to hunker down, rest, be reflective. I really think that when we do this we honor and say yes to winter's invitation to become that bit more attuned to the natural world around us; a world to which, because of all our technological advances and their accompanying expectations, we can easily forget we are connected. I've come to believe that when we establish a resonance with the seasons and connect accordingly with the natural world, we honor Sacred Mystery immanent in all things.

I share all of this as a way of introducing this year's installment of "Winter . . . Within and Beyond." Inspired by my previous seasonally-focused posts (here, here, and here), this evening's post is a compilation of words (excerpted from various writings that have been especially meaningful to me these last few months) and photos taken since November last year. The images taken outside ("beyond") are mainly from the area around my home in south Minneapolis, located close to Minnehaha Creek and its parkway. It many ways this area is like being in the woods! This area is also the location of what I've come to experience as the "Prayer Tree" (right).

Most of the interior (or "within") images were taken inside my home, specifically in my room with its "meditation nook," as one friend calls it. This "nook" basically serves as a focal point when I pray and meditate, and contains John Giuliani's beautiful portrait of the Compassionate Christ along with an assortment of icons, stones, prayer beads, and other meaningful objects that I've collected over the years.

Also featured in this photographic collection are portraits of four men who, in different ways, hold very special places in my heart. In the words and symbolism of Winston Graham's sixth Poldark novel, they are my "four swans."

One last thing before I let the images here speak for themselves. And that is this: My photography, like this blog, is a creative endeavor that grows out of my desire to discern and embody my unique oneness with Sacred Mystery, and my desire to be continually discovering how this embodiment can best serve my deepest self, others, and the world.

My hope is that this collection of images and words of winter may stir something deep and meaningful within you as well.

The wisdom you seek is inside you.

Take a moment to feel the truth of those words.

One of the most important aspects of shamanism is that within every one of us is the light, the divinity. Each one of us has our own truth inside ourselves. The quest of the shaman is to find, live, and express it.

Unlike some other traditions, shamanism is not based on hierarchy and deference to past teachers or following a sacred text with blind belief, but on uncovering the truths within yourself and bringing them out into the world to become a messenger of truth, a messenger of love.

Don Jose Ruiz
Excerpted from The Wisdom of the Shamans

There's a mystery keeping me strong
Even the darkest moments come
and then they're gone
I will cry tonight heavenly tears
Veils fall to the floor as trouble disappears

Will I see my one and only love?

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
From "This Heart of Mine" (a track from the
2008 album, Where Rivers Meet)

Will I see my one and only love?
Will I know the touch of your hand?
I will wait for you
I will understand

Will I see my one and only love?
Feel your body closer to mine
until the end of time?

I will meet you by the river
Or is it too deep,
is it too wide
for you to reach
this heart,
this heart of mine?

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
From "This Heart of Mine" (a track from the
2008 album, Where Rivers Meet)

He won't speak to me
His crooked mouth
is full of dead leaves
. . . full of dead leaves,
bits of twisted branches
and frozen garden,
crushed and stolen grasses
from slumbering lawn.

He is dissolving,
dissolving before me.

And dawn will come soon.

Kate Bush
From "Misty" (a track from the
2011 album, 50 Words for Snow)

One of grief's lessons is patience – an attitude of self-compassion. . . . On the other side of all disillusionment and even despair, there will also be joy, and goodness, and beauty. Gratefulness and celebration have always sprung from the soil of loss and grief. We will be alive, and life will be good. However difficult circumstances become, we will be able to savor the beauty of life in each present moment.

Now, ain't it good to know
That you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them,
Oh, don't you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running, oh, yeah,
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there, yes,
You've got a friend

Carole King
From "You've Got a Friend"
(as sung by Dusty Springfield on the album, Faithful)

Compassion is a way of life – an inner posture of how to be with suffering, both our own and others, and a desire to move that attitude into action. Compassion involves an "inside-out" movement. A radical change unfolds in us when compassion becomes a way of life, a transformayion as far-reaching as an acorn growing into a tree . . . or a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly.

The greatest challenge of compassion may well be that of recognizing the dignity and worth of every person – regardless of race, gender, culture, creed, political stance, or personal behavior. The light of divinity swells within each one, no matter how hidden that goodness might be.

Joyce Rupp
Excerpted from Boundless Compassion:
Creating a Way of Life

The journey of each soul is cyclical. It inevitably requires repeated expeditions into the underworld, times when we must face terrible truths we had previously avoided. These self-discoveries shock us, break our hearts, humble us, and ground us. Each time we are shaken. Like the hero who narrowly avoids defeat, we are driven to the brink of despair. It takes great soul strength to find the inner resources we need to bounce back, despite everything. It takes the reclaiming of our naive, intense vitality, our "will to power," our "third intelligence" (centered in the hara, or gut), and the genius of will – which powers all success, for good or ill.

How can I describe you?
You're my shining star

You give me direction
Such an intimate connection

You're my star
So glad I found you
Love to be around you

Yeah, you keep me connected
You're my shining star

Carl Anderson
From "You Are My Shining Star"
(a track from Carl Anderson's self-titled 1986 album)

This is the time
Nothing can stop me now
This is the time to spin the wheel
This never-ending circle
Is going to end soon
One way or the other
I will reach a breakthrough

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
From "Wild As Can Be" (a track from the
2008 album, Where Rivers Meet)

The hare is an archetype, is numinous. . . . Ideas about transformation, especially the sympathetic magic underlying the process of metaphor, interest me greatly, and the naturally elusive and mythic qualities of the hare readily embody this. . . . I have tried always to keep faith with the creature itself, bearing in mind its behaviour in the wild as well as the mythic, magical values it has acquired in human consciousness over the millennia.

To see a hare is to be reminded of the mystery of lives tangential to our own, their beauty and vulnerability.

– Anna Crowe
Excerpted from "A Calendar of Hares"
(The Leveret, December 4, 2007)

In many pagan and indigenous spiritualities, any tree can be representative of the tree, i.e., the World Tree or Cosmic Tree.

In numerous religious traditions the World Tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld. The Tree of Life, which connects all forms of creation and is mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis, is a form of the World Tree.

To get to the oak tree by which I regularly pray, one must go off the paved pathways. There is a track, but no doubt for many, it’s a hidden, unknown one. And yet it’s one that leads to the “Tree of Life.” All of this brings to mind the Beloved and Antlered One, “seeker of the forest’s hidden paths,” a powerful and beautiful way of acknowledging all the different, unorthodox ways that one can seek and find the Sacred.

– Michael Bayly
Excerpted from "The Prayer Tree"
The Wild Reed
September 18, 2017

Our individual awareness and personality is like a standing wave in a flowing river. That wave has a unique form, but the form is created by motion. And the substance of consciousness is not unique; it is common to all filaments and currents of the river. . . . If our consciousness is like a standing wave, then Deep Self is the underlying rock that creates the form our awareness takes. Deep Self shapes our fate, lines up the lessons we need to learn, and guides our evolution.

When we are in contact with Deep Self, we feel a sense of rightness in our choices and actions – not self-righteousness or complacency but a visceral sense of knowing we are on the right road. Whatever happens, whatever the consequences of our actions, we know we are doing what we are meant to do.

Excerpted from The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
pp. 72-73

NEXT: A Day Both Holy and Magical

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Brigit Anna McNeill on the Meaning of Winter Solstice Time
A New Snowfall Record
In Minneapolis, a Snowy February Friday
Winter of Content
Winter Beauty
Interiors – February 1, 2017
Photo of the Day – December 11, 2016
Winter Light
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter Storm (2012)
A Winter Reflection
Shadows and Light
Winter's Return
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Photo of the Day – December 9, 2012
Prayer of the Week – February 22, 2011
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2018)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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