Monday, August 30, 2021

Mystical Participation

As with the writings of Jeff Foster and Andrew Stark that I’ve recently highlighted, the words I share today by author and psychologist Sharon Blackie speak to a deep part of me, and resonate as both timely and relevant.

In the excerpt I share below from Blackie’s 2018 book, The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday, the concept of “mystical participation” (or participation mystique, as it was first defined by French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl) is explored. It’s basically the idea that as humans connected in deep and intrinsic ways to the created world around us, we have the capacity to recognize and be in relationship with all kinds of natural realities and processes. In doing so, we can and often do, as Blackie puts it, “invest [these realities and processes] with a significance which goes well beyond their natural physical forms.”

Tragically, most people in the so-called “Western” world have lost touch with this capacity and thus their life-giving connection to nature, in large part because of the dominating and conquering mind-set inherent to both patriarchy and colonialism, and the consumerist mindset of industrialized capitalism. The capacity for mystical participation has, however, been consistently maintained through the centuries by many indigenous peoples across the globe.

That being said, many people in the “West” can and do experience “a sense of kinship with the world; a feeling of oneness, in the sense that we and the world and other creatures and objects in it are not really separate and fundamentally different from each other, but are merged in the same living system.” I’ve certainly had such experiences, and I can relate to how they have been described by psychologist Abraham Maslow as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilirating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect.” Maslow termed these experiences of mystic oneness “peak experiences,” and noted that they can be triggered by our participation in and with art, nature, sex, creative work, and music. This all jives with my experience!

Indeed, I think I’ve always been in touch with my capacity for “mystical participation,” or as I prefer to say, mystical communion, though I also recognize that my awareness of such a capacity was definitely heightened when I experienced the film Picnic at Hanging Rock as a child. A similar awakening took place when, as an adolescent, I experienced the music of Kate Bush, music that, in the words of Martin Glover, nurtures and shines “light that defeats the dark forces that seek dominion over the natural world. . . . [Kate Bush] exemplifies English pagan beauty." (And remember, “paganism” is simply a name for the indigenous spiritualities of Europe.)

Anyway, with all this in heart and mind, I share the following from Sharon Blackie's The Enchanted Life. This excerpt is accompanied by samples of my photography which I feel reflect my openness to and capacity for mystical communion with the world, along with a powerful and related quote by author Karen Armstrong.


In 1975, the Scottish poet Kathleen Raine wrote about an experience which her eighty-year-old mother once confided to her: an experience she had as a girl. “‘I have never told anyone before,’ she said, ‘but I think you will undertand.’ It was simply that, one day, sitting among the heather near Kielder, ‘I saw that the moor was alive.’”

Raine went on to describe a similar experience which she herself has, as she sat at her writing table one evening in front of the fire, looking at a hyacinth.

All was stilled. I was looking at the hyacinth, and as I gazed at the form of its petals and the strength of their curve as they open and curl back to reveal the mysterious flower-centres with their antlers and eye-like hearts, abruptly I found that I was no longer looking at it, but was it; a distinct, indescribable, but in no way vague, still less emotional, shift in consciousness into the plant itself. Or rather the plant and I were indistinguishable; as if the plant were a part of my consciousness. I dared scarely breathe, held in a kind of fine attention in which I could sense the very flow of life in the cells. I was not perceiving the flower but living it.

What Raine was describling is a sense of kinship with the world; a feeling of oneness, in the sense that we and the world and other creatures and objects in it are not really separate and fundamentally different from each other, but are merged in the same living system. Such moments of deep relationship have been described by mystics throughout the ages, but in 1964 the American psychologist Abraham Maslow secularised them and gave them a new name: he called them “peak experiences,” and described them as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilirating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect.” According to Maslow’s early studies, peak experiences can be triggered by exposure to art, time spent in nature, sex, creative work, and listening to music.

Today, we see these experiences as remarkable and unique, because they occur rarely during each of our lifetimes; indeed, some people report never having had them at all. But when they happen they are always transformative, jolting us out of the everyday. leading us to see the world, and our place in it, in a very different way. Kathleen Raine wrote that when she returned to “ordinary reality” after her experience with the hyacinth, it was “as if I were experiencing at last things as they are, was where I belonged, where, in some sense, I had always been and would always be. That almost continuous sense of exile and incompleteness of experience whish is, I suppose, the average human state, was gone like a film from sight.”

They might be rare, transient experiences for us, but anthropologists have suggested that this way of perceiving the world once would have been the norm rather than the exception for all human beings, and that it still is the norm for many indigenous peoples around the world. It arises out of a belief not only that the world and objects in it are alive, just as we are – but more than that, they are capable of interacting with us. In contrast, in her remarkable novel Ceremony, Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko describes the way Westerners see the world:

They see no life.
When they look
they see only objects.
The world is a dead thing for them
and trees and the river are not alive
the mountains and stones are not alive.
The deer and bear are objects.
They see no life.
They fear.
They fear the world,
They destroy what they fear.
They fear themselves.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl used the term “participation mystique” – “mystical participation” – to describe the worldview of what he called “primitive peoples,” in contrast to the more logical, rational worldview of "civilised man." Participation, he wrote, is a belief that “mystical forces” which can’t be perceived by our physical senses are present in the world, and can somehow affect the world. Object can of course simply be themselves – a stone is very much a stone, and a stone is something we can act upon – we can pick it up, move it, use it to build a wall – but objects can also be something more. A stone could represent, for example, or in some sense be inhabited by, other powers and influences which are able to make themselves felt beyond the stone. And so the stone, or those powers and influences which the stone represents, can affect us, or act on us, just as we can act on the stone. In other words, the relationship isn’t just one way: it’s reciprocal.

Even here in the “modern” West, I think that many of us – whether we are aware of it or not, or would admit it publicly or not – still retain a residue of this aspect of participation mystique. I certainly do. I invest all kinds of objects with a significance which goes well beyond their natural physical forms. One of my most treasured possessions is the bright blue empty shell of the egg of a grey heron. My husband retrieved it from the floor of a heronry in the woods behind an old riverside cottage we once lived in, in Donegal. To me, this delicate and fragile shell is two things. First, it is at some level, quite simply, an exquiste sky-coloured egg: a rich reminder of the beauty that can so readily be found in the natural world. But second, it carries in it all the mystical power of the heron in my native Irish mythology. Heron is an edge-dweller, a stalker of riverbanks and lochsides, a walker-between-worlds who passes easily from water to land to air; she guards the entrance to the Otherworld. . . . Heron haunted my early morning walks along the river, and in many ways personified for me that magical green river valley where we spent three years of our lives. The shell, then, is essence-of-heron, essense-of-Otherworldly-guardian, essense-of-liminality, essense-of-the-cycle-of-birth-and-rebirth . . . it’s a magical object, something which, when I hold it (very carefully!) in my hand, conjures up a remarkable rich panoply of archetypal and mythical images which are overlaid onto the beauty of its natural form.

Is the eggshell, then, in my head, inhabited by “other powers and influences” which are able to make themselves felt beyond it? Yes, indeed.

Am I a “primitive” at heart? Perhaps I am. But my life is richer for it.

What is interesting here is that, in my understanding, indigenous people who subscribe to such a worldview don’t differentiate between the supernatural and the natural, the material and the spiritual, the self and the non-self. It’s all the same thing. To see the world in a participatory fashion is to refuse such dualism, to refuse to be separate from the world, to insist on always participating in it and with it, and with the other objects and forces which are present in it. It is also, at its heart, about seeing meaning in a stone, or in the discarded shell of a heron’s egg.

Some scholars have argued that this state of participation is indeed primitive, because it’s nothing more than anthropomorphism – in other words, people who live like this are really just projecting human qualities onto other objects and processes in the world, mostly because they are naive, or lacking in proper understanding. According to this perspective, you can’t look at a participatory approach to the world as a form of consciousness which happens to be different from ours, but which is equally legitimate – instead, you should see it as a misguided and unsophisticated worldview that most of us in the West have, happily and rather cleverly, now outgrown.

But other writers and thinkrs have suggested that participation mystique might be rather more sophisticated than that: people in such indigenous societies might really see other objects and processes as genuine, autonomous presences which are part of the same life-world we inhabit, and which are capable of interacting with us. Maybe they see something we don’t. Maybe stones, rivers and storms are alive, just as people are alive, and maybe all things in the world can have relationships with other things. For example, when asked how they have come so perfectly to understand the medicinal uses of plants without the benefits either of randomised or double-bind clinical analyses in the laboratory, most indigenous people will patiently try to explain themselves to Westerners using some version of the words, “The plants told us.” Why then shouldn’t a woman drift for a while into the consciousness of a hyacinth?

Sharon Blackie
Excerpted from The Enchanted Life:
Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday

September Publishing, 2018
pp. 47-50

The earliest mythologies taught people to see through the tangible world to a reality that seemed to embody something else. But this required no leap of faith, because at this stage there seemed to be no metaphysical gulf between the sacred and the profane. When these early people looked at a stone, they did not see an inert, unpromising rock. It embodied strength, permanence, solidity and an absolute mode of being that was quite different from the vulnerable human state. Its very otherness made it holy. A stone was a common hierophany – revelation of the sacred – in the ancient world. . . . Trees, stones and heavenly bodies were never objects of worship in themselves but were revered because they were epiphanies of a hidden force that could be seen powerfully at work in all natural phenomena, giving people intimations of another, more potent reality.

Karen Armstron
Excerpted from A Short History of Myth
Canongate, 2006

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Sacred Pause
Aligning With the Living Light
In the Garden of Spirituality – Rod Cameron
Boorganna (Part II)
Robert Farrer Capon on the Power of the Loving Eye
“I Caught a Glimpse of a God . . .”
Cosmic Connection
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Mysticism of Trees
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
The Landscape Is a Mirror
November Musings
“Our Bodies Are Part of the Cosmos . . .”
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
Autumn's “Wordless Message”
“This Autumn Land Is Dreaming”
Celebrating the “Color of Spring” . . . and a Cosmic Notion of the Christ
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism
No Other Time, No Other Place
The Prayer Tree
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Somehow, Somewhere

Thinking of you on your birthday, Mahad, and sending you energies of love and healing. . . . I am grateful for the times we got to spend together and know we'll see each other again – somehow, somewhere.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas 2020: A Time of Loss and Grief, Gratitude and Hope
Moments of Wonder
Time By the River
A Longing and a Prayer
Now Is the Time
You Will Know It
Ride to Sundown
Meeting Truth
Out and About – Spring 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
Out and About – Autumn 2018
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
Out and About – Winter 2018-2019
Winter . . . Within and Beyond
Out and About – Autumn 2020
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism
The Prayer Tree

Opening image: Mahad – August 31, 2018. (Photo: Michael J. Bayly)

“The Perfect Send-Off”

Today is the first anniversary of the death of actor Chadwick Boseman.

I’ve been honoring Chadwick at The Wild Reed on the 28th day of every month since his passing last year on August 28. Chadwick died of colon cancer, and although he had been living with the disease since 2016, he never spoke of it publicly.

Today the honoring continues with my sharing of a heartfelt piece by The Gamer’s Stacey Henley. It focuses on Marvel’s animated Disney Plus series What If...?, in which Chadwick posthumously reprises his role as T’Challa (aka Black Panther).

Henley’s article is reprinted in its entirety below with added images and links.


What If . . . ? Is the Perfect
Send-Off for Chadwick Boseman
By Stacey Henley
The Gamer
August 24, 2021

Hearing Chadwick Boseman in What If...? was always going to be bittersweet. Not only was it Boseman’s last turn as the character of T’Challa/Black Panther but, as an animated show, it also led with his voice, something Boseman was particularly central to forming. Black Panther was originally going to have an American accent, but Boseman stepped in and suggested our African hero who was born and raised in Africa should probably sound African. Boseman himself then worked with a dialect coach to create the Wakandan accent, which all the other actors then had to learn. Black Panther is a crucial character in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) and is important to so many people. From day one, Boseman understood this.

As the Infinity Saga closed, it was clear that Boseman was being positioned as the MCU’s new lead. He is the first character to emerge from the portals in Avengers: Endgame [above] and he is the character who picks up the Infinity Gauntlet [left] during the literal passing of the torch. Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the female heroes are intentionally pushed into the spotlight in the battle against Thanos. These are the heroes of the future. Thanks to Boseman’s untimely passing, this will no longer come to fruition, and with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever avoiding a CGI Boseman out of respect, What If...? will be his last turn in the role of T’Challa. That’s especially fitting, with the question “what if” being destined to hang over the MCU forever when it comes to Boseman.

Of course, at the time at Marvel nobody knew this. Boseman kept his cancer diagnosis a secret from the public and most of his colleagues, so What If...? was never written as a last hurrah. That’s probably for the best though; T’Challa as Star-Lord is such a hopeful tale and a fitting goodbye to Boseman that it had to happen organically. Any attempt to write a real goodbye would have been far too schmaltzy, and would have been robbed of the humour, wit, and spikiness that What If...? has.

We’re two episodes in now, and we’ve had one miss and one hit. Peggy as Captain Carter sounds great on paper, but it played out far too similarly to Steve Carter’s own time as Captain America in the war and shoehorned in a relationship that no longer made sense. It just felt like Captain America: The First Avenger with Carter in the lead role. T’Challa as Star-Lord [aka Peter Quill] does not suffer in this way. It is not just Guardians of the Galaxy with Black Panther. The entire dynamic of the crew is flipped. We see a post-Mad Titan phase Thanos, a more sophisticated, femme fatale interpretation of Nebula, a new Drax, a softer Yondu, and the same old Kraglin and Taserface.

It doesn’t just reimagine T’Challa as Star-Lord. T’Challa is, by all accounts, a less selfish person than Peter Quill. Sure, some of that is down to upbringing – Quill was raised by a single, sickly mother in Nowheresville, Missouri, while T’Challa is royalty – but some of it is just nature. Quill is loyal and protective, but he’s also a bit of a douchebag. T’Challa as Star-Lord is more of a Robin Hood character - he’s able to defeat Thanos with words and is much more capable when it comes to rallying people to his cause. It’s not just replacing a character in the story, it’s rewriting the story for the character.

It’s not a riff on Guardians at all. It’s more What If...? Ocean’s Eleven Was Robin Hood, Oh And Also Black Panther Is Star-Lord And Friends With Thanos. It’s exactly what What If...? should be, and it even throws the spotlight on Howard the Duck. In showing a new side to Nebula, it could be a key part of her post-Endgame faceturn development, but for now, all eyes are on T’Challa.

We are set to get more T’Challa What If...? stories before the first season wraps up, and that too is bittersweet. The most recent episode felt like the perfect conclusion, and it feels like tempting fate to ask for more. Then again, Boseman is one of the MCU’s most fascinating performers, a rare straight man hero, letting Shuri riff off him and giving Killmonger the breathing space to become one of the best villains superhero cinema has ever seen. I want more of Boseman, but I also want him to have a fitting ending. What If...? gave him that, and I can only hope the series keeps it up.

– Stacey Henley
The Gamer
August 18, 2021

Related Off-site Links:
T'Challa’s What If...? Episode Proves He Was the Best Hero the MCU Could Have – Alexis Medd (Mashable, August 19, 2021).
What If...? Takes Black Panther to Space in a Twist on the Comics – Jude Jones (Polygon, August 18, 2021).
Marvel’s What If...? – Inside That Beautiful Chadwick Boseman Episode – Don Kaye (Den of Geek, August 18, 2021).
Chadwick Boseman Relished Playing a More Cheerful T’Challa in What If...? – Susana Polo (Polygon, August 18, 2021).
Marvel’s What If...?: The Huge MCU Ramifications of Episode 2’s Ravagers Lineup – Gavin Jasper (Den of Geek, August 18, 2021).
Marvel’s What If...?: Different Versions of T’Challa Will Appear in Four Episodes – Wesley LeBlanc (IGN, August 3, 2021).
Daughter of James Brown Pays Tribute to Chadwick Boseman, One Year After His Death – Chris Bucktin (Mirror, August 27, 2021).
Remembering Chadwick Boseman’s Inspiring Life and Legacy on One-Year Anniversary of Death – Antoinette Bueno‍ (Entertainment, August 28, 2021).
Co-star and Friends Remember Chadwick Boseman, One Year Later: “He Was An Angel on This Planet” – Elise Brisco (USA Today, August 28, 2021).
How Chadwick Boseman’s Private Love Story Added Another Layer to His Legacy – Natalie Finn (E-Online, August 28, 2021).

UPDATES: What If: 5 Ways T’Challa Is A Better Star Lord – Jasmine Venegas (, September 7, 2021).
What If? Zombie Episode: Chadwick Boseman’s Iconic Black Panther Quote Touches Fans’ Hearts – Jenna Anderson (, September 8, 2021).
Black Panther’s Angela Bassett Opens Up About Filming Sequel Without Chadwick Boseman – Michele Theil (Digital Spy, September 9, 2021).
Rumor Says Black Panther 2 Will Introduce a New Queer Superhero – Mey Rude (Out, September 9, 2021).

For The Wild Reed’s series that remembers and celebrates Chadwick Boseman, see:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
Honoring An Icon
Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”
Chadwick Boseman’s Final Film Role: “A Reed Instrument for Every Painful Emotion”
Celebrating a Special Day
Boseman on Wilson
Chadwick Boseman and That “Heavenly Light”
In This Time of Grief
A Bittersweet Accolade
Chadwick Boseman Receives Posthumous NAACP Image Award
“He Was Just Interested In the Work”
Remembering Chadwick Boseman’s Life of Purpose
The Political Legacy of Chadwick Boseman
Remembering an Actor Who “Changed Everything”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee’s Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Quote of the Day

The right religious worldview is the one that makes you a more empathetic human being – period. It is the belief system that enables you to be more aware of the suffering in the world and propels you into other people’s lives to alleviate that suffering.

If your religion doesn’t yield an ever deepening compassion in you and move you to widen your embrace of disparate humanity, it’s the wrong religion. I don’t care what your pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, guru, or prophet says. Believing the right thing isn’t the right thing unless your life shows the fruit. Less generosity, less empathy, less diversity means you got it wrong.

– John Pavlovitz
Excerpted from “How to Know If You Have the Wrong Religion
August 25, 2021

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Aligning With the Living Light
A Return to the Spirit
Called to the Field of Compassion
In the Garden of Spirituality – David Richo
In the Garden of Spirituality – Karen Armstrong
In the Garden of Spirituality – Doris Lessing
In the Garden of Spirituality – Joan Chittister
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence

Image: Kristen Solberg.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Aligning With the Living Light

Timely and relevant writings keep coming my way!

And they seem beautifully connected.

Yesterday, I casually picked up the latest issue of Lavender Magazine and found myself drawn to the following words of editor Andrew Stark. Indeed, I soon realized that Stark’s words serve as a wonderful follow-up to the insights of Jeff Foster – and my own related question of how to “hold everything in love” – that I shared in my last post.

The connection between positivity and general well-being is not a new concept. Park et al. (2016) wrote the following in an article for the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, “Evidence is accumulating that a happy, engaged, and fulfilling psychological and social life is not just a consequence of good health, it is what leads people to live a healthy and long life.” In other words, positivity and health go hand in hand.

Positivity in this sense is not merely the absence of negativity; it is the presence of self-love. If you exercise self-love, you create positive energy, thus sending that energy into the world. Think of it as a kind of light source, touching everything around you. And since we are all ambassadors of a cosmic consciousness, what Carl Sagan called “a way for the universe to know itself,” our self-love is also a gesture of universal peace. By loving yourself, the world is made better.

If flowers are, as Eckhart Tolle explains in A New Earth, “the enlightenment of the plant,” then we, too, are the enlightenment – or flowering – of a universal consciousness. And like flowers, we are colorful and exquisite.

Andrew Stark
Lavender Magazine
Issue 684, August 12-25, 2021
p. 8

Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the artist who created the beautiful image that opens this post. It’s an image that is very meaningful to me as I see it as representing the sacred or divine source (what Stark calls “cosmic consciousness”) that is both within and beyond us. In my view, the cultivating of “self-love,” i.e., the connecting to and living from one’s deepest Self, requires an openness to and relationship with this divine source, one which many people refer to as “God,” and which since ancient times and across religions and cultures, has been symbolized by light.

When I meditate for five minutes every morning at my prayer shrine, I trust that I am aligning my inner divine light (a light that’s one with my deepest, truest Self) with the “living light” (yet another name for the divine source). I understand this living light to be both within and beyond me, and as infusing all of creation. The image that opens this post is for me a beautiful representation of this alignment.

With the awareness that I am both aligned with and an embodiment of the sacred; that I am, in other words, with and of the living light, I am ready (blessed, if you will) to go out into my day and share through my words, actions, and presence this transforming light with others. I trust that this sharing cannot but help encourage others to get in touch with and live from (to whatever extent they’re able) their own inner light; their own source of and connection to the divine.

I appreciate and resonate with what Marianne Williamson says about the spiritual discipline and process I’ve highlighted in this post: “We can, through continued and sincere devotional practice,” she writes, “transmute the world of material form. We shall bring it into harmony with the structures of the living light. We shall live from that light and become that light. [In doing so, we are participating in what will] one day be known as the Great Transformation of the human race.”

May it be so!

NEXT: Mystical Participation

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Sacred Pause
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
The Light Within
No Stranger Am I
The Source Is Within You
Like the Sun
“There's Light in Love, You See”
Cultivating Stillness
Blue Yonder
Dancer Calvin Royal III: Stepping Into His Light
In the Dance of Light, Eyes of Fiery Passion
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
In the Garden of Spirituality – Eckhart Tolle
Diarmuid O'Murchú on Our Capacity to Meditate
Thoughts on Christian Meditation | II | III | IV | V
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: Quote of the Day – February 8, 2013
Chadwick Boseman and That “Heavenly Light”

Opening image: Artist unknown.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Sacred Pause

I recently came across something author and teacher Jeff Foster wrote which was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s from his book The Way of Rest: Finding Courage to Hold Everything in Love. Actually, just the title of this book resonates with me!

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been struggling to “hold everything in love” as I’m acutely aware of what a time of stress and uncertainty, loss and grief we’re living through . . . and have been living through for over a year now.

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently helped plan a day-long retreat for my colleagues in the field of palliative care. I facilitated the retreat’s opening ritual, one which invited particpants to “set aside” for the day whatever it was that was weighing most on their hearts and minds. I had a beautiful river stone for everyone present, which we all placed in a wooden bowl to symbolize this “setting aside.” At the end of the day, folks were free to come and gather up their stone, perhaps aware that they were able to “carry” what it represented in a new way, now that they had experienced a day of rest and renewal.

When they had placed their stone in the bowl at the start of the day, people had been invited to say out loud what it symbolized for them. For me, it was what I’ve come to call “soul exhaustion.” It’s an exhaustion that runs deep, and has a lot to do with the coronavirus pandemic which, due to the Delta variant and people’s poor choices in responding to this variant, has flared up again across the globe, especially here in the U.S. where simple things like wearing a mask and getting vaccinated have been mind-bogglingly politicized. This has contributed to an increase in infections, to hospitals being overwhelmed, and to unnecessary deaths. Working in a hospital setting, I witness these things every day.

The ongoing suffering and strife in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Haiti can also leave me feeling overhelmed and at a loss of how best to respond.

And in my personal life, I find myself struggling to understand and follow-through with how best to be a true friend to someone I care deeply for but whose issues and decisions more often than not require me to walk away so as to protect and maintain the level of emotional health and stamina I need for my work in the field of palliative care chaplaincy. And yet he remains my friend and, as many of the images of this post (and others) attest, something of a muse for my creative outlet of photography.

Given all of this, you might understand why I experience the following from Jeff Foster’s The Way of Rest as a timely and beautiful gift. Perhaps you will too! . . . Accompanying Foster’s words are some of my photographs of beauty that I’m drawn to, including the summer blooms in my garden and the Mississippi River shoreline close to my home in south Minneapolis.


You are so overwhelmed by life sometimes, by the enormity of it all, by the vastness of possibilities, by the myriad perspectives available to you. You feel so pressed down sometimes, by all the unresolved questions, by all the information you are supposed to process and hold, by the urgency of things. You are overcome by powerful emotions, trying to control, or at least influence, everything and everyone around you, trying to hold yourself together, trying to make it all “work out” somehow, trying to get everything done “on time.” Trying to resolve things so fast, even trying not to try at all.

You are exhausted, sweet one, exhausted from all the trying and the not trying, and you are struggling to trust life again. It’s all too much. . . . You are exhausted; you long to rest. And that is not a failing of yours, not a horrible mistake, but something wonderful to embrace! For the exhaustion is pure Intelligence, and it says, “Let go, let go! Stop trying so hard! Be present!”

Stop pushing for answers right now. Allow everything to rest right now. Take a sacred pause. Allow questions to remain unanswered, for now. Allow space for yourself to breathe today. Allow yourself to not be able to hold it all up today. Allow yourself to not know how, to not know at all. Allow the heart to break, if it needs to, and the body to ache, and the soul to wake. Everything is so okay, when you get down to it. So okay, here.

And know you are loved. . . . Know you have always been loved, long before you were named, long before you were even born, long before overwhelm came to show you the way.

Jeff Foster
Excerpted from The Way of Rest:
Finding Courage to Hold Everything in Love

Sounds True, 2016
pp. 34-35

NEXT: Aligning With the Living Light

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Day of Renewal
Respite By the River
Cultivating Stillness
Child of the Universe
The Source Is Within You
Time By the River
Blue Yonder
November Musings
God Rest Us
Just One Wish
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections
In This In-Between Time
What We Crave

Images: Michael J. Bayly