The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Monday, 12 October 2015
'Grace' is one of those words that's tricky to define, and comes as such a loaded term that many people can't stand it anyway. So it's hard to use, especially in a non-Christian context.
But I'm also discovering how important it is for me – to recognise and name, to cherish, to incorporate into my daily life.
Last night, my 93-year-old mother-out-of-law and I had one of those brief quiet conversations we have when we are alone together for a few minutes. She and I share many interests, views and values. As co-founder of the Medical and Scientific Network, and co-director of a spiritual Centre for many years, she has an interest in integrating the spiritual with the scientific, with the psychological, and especially with the sociopolitical. She routinely and with great passion writes to MPs, David Cameron and the broadsheets with her articulate views on Gaza, climate change, poverty, capitalism and the benefits cuts.
She is becoming frailer physically, and was speaking of the fact that she has to accept a much more limited physical presence in the world on eg political demos and rallies. So we spoke of how she handles this loss of action.
Eileen is a Quaker with an interest in what she calls liberal Catholicism and in Taoism. (I have always so wished that she'd had the opportunity to meet my father before he had his stroke; he too incorporated many spiritual paths into his own Way, and had much to say of them in relation to living in the world.)
'Grace is becoming more and more important in my life,' Eileen said last night. I asked how she experienced that, and she spoke of 'Letting go and letting God.'
TM, ever keen to dive into a conversation on more-than-mundane matters, came into the room at the point. 'What do you mean by grace, though?'
Eileen said something about standing in the benign and generous presence of the Divine in an attitude of surrender. I knew how the word 'surrender' would catalyse TM's fierce objections. However, he restrained himself admirably from taking that definition apart, or shooting down the word 'surrender'.
I rarely speak of this to anyone, but I added that from my perspective it is something to do with emptying oneself to All That Is so that one slips the leash of ego, at least briefly, in order to align oneself with presence and whatever it is that is so much larger than we are, and what we might call – though I have huge hesitations about naming it at all – the Intelligent Cosmos, Great Spirit, the Great Mystery, the Creative Intelligence; or simply the Web of Being (to borrow from the Buddhist notions of Indra's Net).
Moments of grace, if one is open to them, present themselves in every moment of the day. We, being human, of course, live so much in the past or the future that we may consider ourselves blessed to notice simply two or three.
When I notice one such moment – and I make a practice, both as a writer and as a meditator, of putting myself into the position where I may be showered with them at the start of each day – I experience a deep sense of both calm and ecstasy.
So, now, this morning, early, there is the little thin serpent of rivermist hovering over the brook.
There is the way the sun glides above the hill, and colours in the field with its spent umbelliferae and spider-threads, as I stand at the field gate.
There is the robin, who appears when I go out into the border of the field and, eyeing me all the time from less than a foot away, lets his or her throat swell with the very quiet song he seems to be offering directly to me; the bigger a gift because when I go and fetch food for him he is not interested, but continues to gaze at me and sing.
No matter what happens next in one's day – and today for me what happened next was a major and time-expensive computer crash – the moments remain in the blood, in the nervous system, in the heart of me.
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