Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Back in the Day: 1970

Richard Rohr's daily meditation on Archtypal religion todayhis idea that Jesus himself spoke against permanence taking over the spirit of faithmade me remember the 1970s at Clark University in Worcester, MA, where I earned my BA degree during student strikes and the last three years of the American Vietnam War.  A small group of us  visited Goddard and Roger Williams Colleges to research Universities without walls and came back home to Worcester to start our own branch:

We called our course “Social Gut in a Nut” and supplemented it with neighborhood action from a storefront—“If you need a degree, you should have been born with one,” we said, and assisted walk-ins from G.E.D. to Universities Without Walls. “Get degrees for what you do well,” we said. But the immigrants who entered our store believed in hard work and weren’t buying “Beat the system” sessions on how to pass tests and other barriers. American dreams mattered less to them than dignity, so we helped with high school diplomas and food stamps much more than welfare and B.A.s.  

And this changed us.   

Where we had railed against hypocrisy, we now sought structures with built in change, rotating leadership and planned self-destruction. We kept records and rules in a cardboard box no bigger
than a bread box and destroyed overflow from the beginning, keeping the latest decisions only, process now more than history. 

But some few should have written the story of this 9-month old storefront before it disappeared. Not a relic on archival shelves, it also does not model optimism and action for those wrestling with crusty rules in living communities, systematic isms ever recycled and inability to see outside the boxes we clean and replenish with the same smelly litter.

I am back in those lessons today as I join other Quakers to “Undo Racism” by examining white privilege and systematic supremacy in our own meetings. I look for footholds in the apparently set processes and structures I am part of: "House cleaning begins in our own homes." I know we can dismantle instead of continuing exclusionary practices. More than surface faith will be needed, however, to be willing to pare down even what we think essential.  Existence is not all. With the model of prophets like Jesus we can forge new paths, and write a memo to our future selves: Destruct at the first sign of holding person and power over change and flow.  

Destruct when systems overtake missions and integrity.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Free-writing with Jen: Mothering and Re-Mothering

Falling into mother again and again is like falling in love again and again: Once is not enough; renewal is necessary.  The need for nurture is not used up by crossing the line from childhood into adulthood. 

I have wanted re-mothering from loves, therapists, friends, family, people of faith and even from books I read.  I have given re-mothering to others, too—not perfectly, but certainly instinctually.  Instinct to mother is not gender nor species bound.  It grows from acceptance of the self.

Ironically, the one I often neglect to nurture through re-mothering is me.  I want the external hug and lean in and eye depth.  I want knowledge of "the nurture need" to be shared sub-consciously without needing to be told, asked, instructed.  Ha!  I felt this most successfully in a counselling situation with a trained re-evaluation peer.  RE, or co-counselling breaks oppressive patterns by contradicting them; and re-mothering is the greatest contradiction to lived experience, daily wounding and larger blockages to our own ability to nurture others and ourselves.

Another irony is that the main character, Alice, in the novel I am writing can mother others and herself, but doesn’t want any mothering from outside sources.  An external touch would be an intrusion into the fine paradise she has built for herself.  It’s one of the many ways we are unlike each other.  Perhaps she isn’t as human as I am. Haha!

Today I  wrote a poem expressing how much we need each other to solve many of the world’s evils.  The poem is called “Simple,” meaning that the solution to starvation is simple.

Let God swoon for hunger
so you hunger no more
world without end

Whether food, touch or freedom
is missing within, God
open the door
we begin.

We who listen and act for God
are coming to rain now
where echoes of pain
roll the plains

Food, care and freedom
are coming your way
God speaks through
our thunder.

I want everyone to have enough food and enough freedom—but even more, I want everyone to have enough mothering.  I called it “touch” and “care” in the poem, but it is mothering and quite often re-mothering when childhood ends or never begins.  I believe we let God hear the great need, and then God works through us  to address it.

In my life, my cat mothers me and so does God.  My cat is a mother.  God is a mother.  Jesus is a tease, trying to bring out the mother in me.  What he does often works.  The presence of Jesus keeps me honest and active.  I also have family members including a mother and father who aren’t averse to re-mothering and often need it themselves.  I have had great re-mothering in all the best relationships present and past. 

The earth is also a mother.  The summer I spent on a mum farm—no pun intended—taught me that one, as my poem  “Mums” attests:

Back when I was sane
I labored at the Mum Farm.


Back when I was insane
I labored at the Mum Farm
to find what I had lost.

It's hard to tell the truth.

Back then I found myself
squatting between rows of color
knees and hands brown from being
kind to roots and buds while
upper teeth held my bottom lip
and a drop of saliva waited 
to parallel salty ones 
from the corners of my eyes.

Back then, sweat from my forehead
moistened my forearms, my shirt stuck
to my back, and my hands found
the healing heart of the Mother.  

Mother Earth is a face of God, a book without words that we walk on and ground ourselves in.  All she asks of us is that we remember from where we came.  “Honor your Father and Mother” says the commandment.  The division into two genders and the hierarchy of male over female in the Torah and in established religions is contradicted by the ideas of Earth as Mother, of mothering and re-mothering.  None of these are gendered except in childbirth itself.  God’s face and Earth’s face are the same.  God is all of life or nothing.  God is in-dwelling in each of us whether called by that name or another, whether acknowledged or not.  And Mother is the Collage of All including our faithfulness to our own beliefs.

I am grateful to know the coincidence of Mother and God.  Why do I forget about it so often? 

Today is a writing day with Friend Jen at her house.  She is writing across the room from me.  I am hungry, and I know Jen is going to make lunch for me soon, to mother me.  I’m also excited about our work this morning, and the excitement feels like another kind of hunger to fill. 

I have been afraid lately that I will let my spine injuries cripple me and the opposite—that I will cripple myself by not allowing the spine injuries adequate time to heal.  I’m aware of how close I came to depression recently because of pain and these accompanying fears.  But this week, the pain decreased and this writing, here, lifts me back to the joy of living.  I yelled out my gratitude into the indwelling universe—Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.  I feel possibility and even brave—as if I might take a step toward re-mothering myself and fulfilling God’s leadings by publishing a little.  A tiny step.  A beginning.

I am putting together a book of poems.  This is my fourth attempt, but this one will progress to publishing despite flaws, fears and foibles.  I will dedicate it to my own mother, to the great Mother Earth and God, to the living capacity to mother and to re-mother.  


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Love Your Enemies

Illustration from the Harvard Humanist

Matthew:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…

Learning the power of Love to transform enemies is my study this year as I join others in trying to undo systematic racism within the Religious Society of Friends.  Systematic Racism is my Enemy.

I was suprised to discover that white supremacy underlies my/our obliviousness to the discomfort and hurt of friends of color within the meetings and processes of Quakers.  

I will write more on this as way opens.

Is resistance a special kind of call?

"Not Resisting Resistance"
 --by Peter Russell (Dec 29, 2014) 

What an amazing reading!  It suggests we become interested in feelings we resist, and focus on the resistance and its causes. Instead of dividing experience when we would rather be worshipping or meditating, we could notice and combine them to enrich the time.   Something like that. Please read it.  The link also has an audio option.

The following is not a summery but my first reaction and associations: 

In grad school, I could only read and write in the busiest cafes.  Berkeley, California was riddled with them, so days and nights flew by with maximum productivity. 

I haven’t been able to achieve the same bubble in non-ideal meditation/worship situations. I resist the unexpected. I let my annoyance at noise ruin the worship time set aside for waiting on God.

Funny how the noisy heated conversations in the cafes did not feel like intrusions.  I knew they were there like a wall of protection, something to lean on while I focused.  And the noise was intellectual as was my task, so there may have been a scaffolding effect.

Perhaps this is the key to the present:  Perhaps the noise is spirit as well—not mine, not welcome—but disinterested enough to be a margin of safety.  I could notice it, notice my annoyance and resistance, and then let the latter blend into the former as a benign safety barrier, something I know well and could accept and make room for.

And what if the “noise” isn’t audible but psychic—like the past rising up to impose itself on the present or anger and other draining emotions?  Couldn’t my spirit benefit from acknowledging them and their inevitability, but then move on? 

In my imperfect practice of the body work known as Alexander Technique, noticing what is happening in each body part actually eases unwanted tension.  I need not do anything else but notice.

The child I was and the child in me has always desired to be seen—not dwelled upon.  Maybe all of these intrusions of  “noise” is inner life calling “Look at me! Look at me.” Looking calmly and seeing will calm the child and make the playing field accessible again.

You’re calling, my dear child.
I am right here, I hear you cry.
I see what you need me to see.
You're not alone anymore.
When you lean on me, I lean, too,
and your presence comforts
beyond anything we do.

Copyright © 2015 S.L.Chast

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Free-writing with Jen: Knots

Getting inside the mystical experience that occurs when I get to the end of my rope:

Knot components

I am at cliff’s edge and God catches me. I think I am going to fall but float instead. I think I am going into the dark but it’s bright with light. I think I’ll cry until I die but smile instead.  I feel my back too bent over but it straightens and lets me take a few dance steps.  I find I can wash the dishes and don’t have to throw them out. And I am glad no one calls because I want this time for myself alone.   

[I stop writing to check the cat because she is too quiet. I take off my pants because they are too tight. And my knees hurt. I have to learn other ways of doing things so I can sit and write without excess discomfort.]

Today is not a mystical day.  I am plodding along with words and breath and sips of water.  My hand, a fist around a pen, produces small scratchy handwriting and not my third grade all-American classic slant.    

One of my performance characters, Alice—who is now the main character in the novel I am writing—has all my ailments and more, but she wouldn't write about them.  Prude and loner that she is, she'd rather talk about lust.  She remembers audience reactions when she said that Helen of Troy had told her she would rather sleep with books than with a man.  While performing Alice performing Helen, I lay down in a pile of broken books and rubbed my body with them. The audience found this titillating, strange, even disgusting.  But was it?  Neither Alice nor I think so, though we may agree that the truth of it is nobody's business.

So what is the knot you are writing about today?  The moment when you realize that you ran out of paper and you are writing on the table instead. [I remember doing this when typing on a manual typewriter.]  Oh!  The moment when you realize you are seeing the sunset but the sunset isn’t seeing you.  The moment you realize, I mean, that the sunset has shown itself but I have hidden.  That moment of bewilderment followed by its opposite: I’m not falling apart.  I’m falling UP! 

[The phone rang, but I was too UP to answer it.  I hear construction sounds from outside, but the soft smells of winter don’t match its thud and mud.]

What is the knot I am writing about?  Passion.  Do I ever write about anything else? 

Do I ever write about anything but the absorption in the wait-a-minute, as in Wait a minutesomething’s moving and alive out there.  Is it a squirrel or a seed? a sibling? a lion?

Bring it on, God!  Plant something alive in the expiring light so it’ll be there when I am ready to see it; when we are ready to see each other.