Solstice.

Solstice.

 

The sun stands still today.

Fields of brown, and something barren

Everywhere you look.

As above, so below.

 

Cloaked in darkness now,

Can you enter in?

 

This is a holy day.

For weeks, and months we have been preparing

Our hearts.

 

34 years, I have visited this day.

Yet this is the first one I understand.

A holy day,

The final surrender.

 

Tomorrow, the light will begin to grow again.

 

– Whitney Logan, 12.21.17

 

 

 

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Forgiveness.

I once heard Marie Howe say

that being present

hurts

a little bit.

 

Some people call her

a religious poet.

She says she isn’t sure

that fits.

 

I do think,

however,

Only a religious person could admit

any of this.

 

Religion,

That word.

It means to re-ligament.

Or, to reconnect

 

what was once adjoined.

Now separate.

 

It’s in the body,

That gap,

And also the way back

Together.

 

She’s right,

you know.

Being present hurts a little bit.

 

You have to say you’re sorry

every time.

For having ever left

 

And forgive,

and forgive,

and forgive

 

And come back.

 

Right here,

Right now,

Re-ligament.

 

I’m sorry,

you say.

And then you let go

 

Of

Getting caught up

in all your separateness.

 

Shame,

or blame

My excuses are limitless.

 

These human traps,

sticky,

and seductive, and so real

when we feel it.

 

But not true.

 

Have you ever seen a pebble shame itself?

Or a raindrop cast around blame?

 

The lilies of the field don’t worry about their clothes.

 

What did Rumi say?

“I’ve gotten free of that ignorant fist

that was pinching and twisting”

me into an illusion

of separateness.

 

So we forgive,

but we don’t forget

It’s very hard to stay.

 

Right here,

Right now.

I’m sorry, you say.

 

Followed by, “it’s okay”.

 

And then, come back, come back,

come back.

Re-ligament.

 

Of course, that hurts a little bit.

 

Nevertheless,

it’s all still here for each

and every one

of us

 

Right after forgiveness.

I AM.

The day Moses met God, he asked,

“What is your name?”,

 

“I have no name”, comes the reply,

From a Source now unnamed.

 

All alone atop that Holy Mountain,

Moses worries after those waiting down below.

 

“Without a name”, he pleads, “How will my people come to know

You from all the other gods

Belonging to these poor, lost, wandering men?”

 

Was it courageous, or cowardice to stand there in that place,

And so boldly ask God for the Grace –

To become small enough for them?

 

“This, not that” was the first and only Law given

By God to those two humans in the Garden.

 

An instruction for an era lost,

The Garden now invisible,

And yet –

 

Just like Moses and his people, most of us here

Are still believing “this, not that” will save us

From the pain of our uncertainty.

 

Shaped by years of wandering through deserts

Of our own,

Are we not guilty of thirsting after the image

Of arriving –

Somewhere, each one of us a beggar.

 

“This, not that, black or white, Please Lord, make it simple”.

 

Moses could have said that.

I hear it in his question.

 

Yet, God, unchanged and ever changing, always sets the tone –

A riddle for an answer.

Or perhaps, an Answer for minds too riddled to hear it:

 

“I AM”.

 

Do you ever wonder what that sound was like in the ears of the man who heard it first?

 

Could it have been pronounced “A-UM”?

 

I’ve heard that sound fall from the mouths of people

Perched atop holy mountains of their own.

Spandex on their bodies,

Twenty dollars for enlightenment.

 

Do they know the Holy mountain upon which they are standing?

They’ve at least removed their shoes.

 

“OM”, it is written, but as it moves from breath, to throat, to tongue, to lips

It sounds

More like this:

“Ahhhhhhhhhh—Ummmmmmm”.

 

The Beginning and The End.

The Alpha and The Omega.

The Atman and The Brahman.

Or can we say, The Ego and The Soul?

 

That which can perceive That which Is.

 

It’s strange and clear and merciful –

Each ancient tradition tells a story

Of this sound.

 

Do you recognize it yet?

 

It’s unclear whether Moses or his people could,

And most days it seems the same for you, and for me –

 

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he bothered once again

To tell us,

“I AM”.

 

The way, the truth, and the light.

 

I think we needed someone to show us,

In the flesh.

I AM.

 

“Stick your finger in my side”, he says,

To his dear doubting friend.

 

But that’s not what I was taught.

Were you?

Instead, instructed over and over to literalize,

To flatten it down.

 

But, didn’t God warn Moses?

Oh wait, I mean,

I AM.

 

Jesus may have been the flesh and bone and blood encounter

With a God

We can’t nail down.

 

Genesis tells us of Creation from No thing.

Science claims the heart begins as a null-point,

A Zero at the center.

No thing.

 

Then a twist, and a spin, and suddenly a beat:

I AM.

 

And while our riddled minds are grasping yet again

After a Name

For the magic happening here,

 

The temple curtain gets torn straight down the middle,

From top to bottom, falling away in two –

Pieces.

 

Holy of Holies now unveiled,

Each one of us bracing to be blinded

By a glimpse

Of what’s inside.

 

Yet, those among us brave or crazy enough

To look

And see –

Will find

No thing is there.

 

No name.

No nails.

 

No thing.

 

Only

I AM.

 

Did not Siddhartha while sitting under the Bodhi tree

Find

No thing too?

Once named, then unnamed, and renamed:

Awakened one.

One who sees.

 

Would you look for yourself?

 

Try Within.

 

Each one of us already knows this Place,

It’s Only human

Beings who could mistake that inner space

 

For alienation.

 

Instead of what it truly is –

Our own Holy ordination.

 

— Whitney Logan, 5.8.17

Hard Teachings.

Jesus said, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you”.

Yet, how many of us actually commit to this each day? I certainly haven’t been able to point to myself as a shining example of this quite often enough. However, I do happen to have a little psychological secret to share that may help.

Herman Hesse articulates this secret best when he says,

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part yourself. What isn’t part ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

If that sounds improbable to you at first, I will give an example:

There was a period of time when I felt really loathsome towards someone in my family. I was very critical towards her for many years, and sometimes still catch myself remembering something she did or said years ago and get a brief little jolt of white-hot fury. I used to say things about her like “she thinks she knows everything absolutely!”, “she has no respect for other peoples’ perspectives”, “she makes me feel small for not believing the things she believes”, “she makes me feel shallow, superficial, and vapid”, “she regards me with suspicion and contempt”, and/or “she doesn’t love or respect me”.

This went on for years.

Eventually, I had the merciful opportunity to study the experience of “hatred” from a psychological perspective, and something begin to change for me. During this time, I learned that hatred – different than anger or constructive criticism or fear – is basically useless, other than to signal to the hater that some aspect of themselves has fallen into shadow. (<– click on that link before reading any further). According to psychological theory, hatred arises to alert us about some shadow aspect – or unconscious part – of ourselves.

So then, what did I do with this new knowledge about hatred? Thankfully, I decided to use this insight to re-examine my feelings towards the family member I mentioned above. It may not surprise you to learn that I soon began to realize that SOOOOOOOOOOO many of the things that bothered me about her were things that bothered me about myself.

Here’s the abbreviated list:

  • I too was guilty of withholding love and respect from her.
  • I too was guilty of minimizing her perspectives, and thinking that mine were superior.
  • I too was guilty of regarding her as one-dimensional and shallow.
  • I too was guilty of treating her with suspicion and contempt.

“Well, hot damn”, I thought, “she and I were the same!”. I hated her behavior towards me precisely because I was doing the same damn thing to her. Not wanting to admit this to myself, I had spent years caught up in these really awful feelings towards someone I wanted to love.

A Peruvian Shaman once said it to me this way:

“That which we won’t admit about ourselves comes to possess us”.

But, here’s the good news: we have a way out of this trap! When we are caught up in hatred towards anyone in particular or any group of people, the best hope we have for softening that fury is to try to acknowledge the unconscious, ugly parts of ourselves that we might be projecting onto them.

Many times, when we are able to sincerely soften ourselves towards someone else, in time, they too will soften. Sometimes they may even soften almost immediately. I mean, just think about how disarming it would be for you if someone walked up to you and said, “I need to apologize for feeling all this ugly stuff towards you for years. I didn’t realize that a lot of that ugliness was really about me, and not about you”. Boom. How open do you suddenly feel? Maybe for some of us it would take more time, but for me, a confession like that is so relatable – and so brave – that I am inclined to start thinking of that person in near-heroic terms.

As the Buddha says,

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love”.

I admit it. This is a hard teaching. It’s hard for me. It’s been especially hard for me in this current political climate at times. It’s hard for most people I know. It’s probably been especially hard for most people I know in this current political climate too. But. Show me the person who can regularly soften their heart and mind towards the people whom they could also readily hate, and I will show you a person who has genuine communion with something Holy. Or, as Jesus says, “to show that you are children of your Father Who is in heaven“, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (Matthew 5:45,44).

Grace and peace,
Whitney

Let’s talk about poverty.

Along with a related personal story, a friend of mine recently shared the following quote on her own blog:

“This is what we seek: a compassion that stands in awe of what the poor have to carry, rather than standing in judgment of how they carry it”. — Father Gregory Boyle

I don’t know about you, but I am in a position to hear a lot of opinions about how federal and state social services foster “dependence”, and/or encourage poor people to “take advantage” of the system. A vast majority of the people who have said things like this to me also call themselves “Christians”.

In a moment, I am going to have a little ‘come-to-Jesus’ with Christians who feel that this kind of attitude towards the poor is reasonable. But before I do that, I want to offer up this PBS documentary, called “Waging A Living” (click the green link). There seems to be an incredible amount of misinformation and assumptions in the world about what it’s like for people who have a full-time jobs, or several part-time jobs, and still don’t make an income above the poverty line.

Now, beloveds, I would like to kindly but firmly remind us what the Bible says about the poor:

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. – Proverbs 14:31

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. – Deuteronomy 15:7-8

When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. – Luke 14:14

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. – Proverbs 28:27

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:17

There’s more, but I’ll leave us all with that for now. Seems crystal clear to me: shall we not aim for Father Boyle’s aspirational compassion? (Prayer hands).

Grace and peace,

Whitney

Eyes to see.

Alright, beloveds: we gotta talk about how easy it is to interpret the Bible for our own personal satisfaction.

Are you not guilty of this? I know I am.

On Monday of this week, I met two women protestors standing outside of a Planned Parenthood facility while on my way to a physical therapy appointment nearby. On a bit of a whim, I politely and sincerely asked them to tell me why they choose to stand there with their signs, what they are hoping to achieve through this demonstration, and why this issue means so much to them.

Alongside their seemingly sincere love for unborn babies, and professed love for the women who feel desperate enough to terminate a pregnancy, I also heard them express a lot of rage about Planned Parenthood in general. Anecdotally, I mentioned to them that when I did not have health insurance in 2007-2009, I received two annual exams, the HPV vaccine, and a birth control prescription from a Planned Parenthood provider. I’m aware that they also offer cancer screenings, although I did not mention this at the time.

One of the women standing there responded to me then by saying, “well, when I think of that, I think about the ‘double-minded man’ in the Bible, and I know I need to be single-minded. It doesn’t matter if these facilities sometimes do good things, they also do the worst thing, and I can’t be double-minded about it.”

Her explanation troubled me considerably, and here’s why: there is a verse in the book of James Chapter 1, which says “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (1:8, KJV). Fine. Now, let’s zoom out for second, and observe this verse in it’s context:

5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”. – James 1:5-8, NIV

James encourages his reader to not be double-minded, or doubting, regarding their faith in God’s generosity. In other words, he may as well be saying, “when you ask God for wisdom, believe that He will give it you. If you do not believe that He will give it to you, you won’t be available to receive it”.

Do you see?

This scripture does NOT say: “when you decide that you alone know the mind and will of God on any one subject, make sure to dig into that conviction as hard as you can, and do not waiver from your opinion even if you are presented with contradictory information, or your fate will be that of a double-minded man”.

That’s not double-minded, that’s closed-minded, and that is in no way related to the instruction James gives the early church in this part of his letter.

I sincerely, and urgently believe that we HAVE TO make a commitment to examine our spiritual assumptions – in an ongoing way no matter how uncomfortable that may feel to each of us sometimes. Otherwise, we risk carrying around belief systems that are unsubstantiated and lifeless at best — or corrosive and dangerous at worst.