• evansph2

The word Guru comes from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions denoting a person who is a supreme spiritual guide. A person with wisdom. American spiritual teacher and psychologist, Ram Dass says most of us have an image of a “guru” – a little old Indian man wrapped in a dusty cloth wearing sandals and carrying a walking stick. A man of few words who usually resides a long way from where we are – often in a mountain monastery or in a beautiful forest in Tahiti. Little wonder we never find him/her as most of us don’t have the opportunity to go to India or Tahiti to look. We forget about looking right here, right now – which was Ram Dass’ quintessential advice always! His book “Be Here Now” was the source of the first sermon I ever preached – and the source I still turn to these days as I am forever tempted to look for answers everywhere except where I am!

There is a Hindu belief in finding your “Upa Guru” which translates to something like, the person right next to you. The guru waiting for you to find him/her. The ordinary, the usual, the one disguised as a person you know.

It’s a good practice now and then to think about who or what might be our own guru. The sage Ziyoung as written that there is nowhere that is not a wisdom hall. Where might we look for our own upa guru, our own wisdom hall? Though we’d probably prefer a trip to Tahiti or even a stint in a mountain monastery, likely the opportunities are all around us to find wisdom and to find people who will help us seek our own wisdom. I’ve always liked the saying (probably by Ram Dass) that Nirvana is right here nine times out of ten.

I was talking with a friend recently who said her father-in-law at age ninety and quite infirm had one piece of advice to pass on. The secret to life?? --- “acceptance”. The best thing to do when it rains is to let it rain. Good lessons. Hard to learn!

Questions Before Dark – by Jeanne Lohmann

Day ends, and before sleep

when the sky dies down, consider

your altered state: has this day

changed you? Are the corners

sharper or rounded off? Did you

live with death? Make decisions

that quieted? Find one clear word

that fit? At the sun’s midpoint

did you notice a pitch of absence,

bewilderment that invites

the possible? What did you learn

from things you dropped and picked up

and dropped again? Did you set a straw

parallel to the river, let the flow

carry you downstream?

  • evansph2

Updated: 6 days ago

Occasionally I am given the opportunity to be completely alone. Not just an hour snatched here and there – but the opportunity to be alone for a long stretch of time. I almost always feel guilty about claiming that time. There are so many things that need doing, so many ways that the world tells me to just join in, to make friends, to stay busy, to return that call, to send another email. It is surprisingly hard to claim the right to solitude. The poet David Whyte has written in his poem, “The House of Belonging”…

“This is the temple of my adult aloneness

And I belong to that aloneness

As I belong to my life.”

Claiming the need for solitude feels sometimes like nearly a matter of life and death to me. I have a happy life, a good marriage, wonderful children. My need for solitude does not deny those things. It lives alongside of them. Stretches of time to follow my own muse, on my own time table. Not necessarily to meditate for hours on end, or to write the great American novel, nor to write a list of resolutions. But simply to see again who I am when I am not responding to the world around me. What are my desires? How DO I want to spend time? What touches my heart? What am I really hungry for? Such questions as these arise from within during times of solitude. They are questions that take stretches of time to answer or to even begin to answer. Nor do I mean to use my precious solitude to find “Answers” – but, even just sometimes to find the questions that nag at me under the radar. Here is another poem by David Whyte which has touched me deeply over the years, addressing all this.

SOMETIMES by David Whyte

Sometimes if you move carefully through the forest, breathing like the ones in the old stories, who could cross a shimmering bed of leaves without a sound, you come to a place whose only task is to trouble you with tiny but frightening requests, conceived out of nowhere but in this place beginning to lead everywhere. Requests to stop what you are doing right now, and to stop what you are becoming while you do it, questions that can make or unmake a life, questions that have patiently waited for you, questions that have no right to go away.

Especially in this time of trouble that we are living through, it feels important to somehow carve out a niche of time, however small to be alone. To follow your own muse… maybe just to nap, read a novel, listen to some music, cook yourself a good meal…. May you find your own “temple of adult aloneness” and may you learn to worship there.

  • evansph2

Nearly everyone I meet with seems to struggle, especially in these days, with feeling they should be doing something to change the world. Of course, there is so much that needs changing right now. At the same time, these folks (including me) are drawn to do things like read a novel, watch TV, do crossword puzzles. And we/they feel torn and guilty about doing something that has no ulterior meaning. On the whole, we have a hard time allowing ourselves to have fun! People I meet with often are seeking some “serious” spiritual discipline – usually they have tried sitting meditation and not found it satisfying. Getting people to give up that effort and try something that they actually WANT to do often brings cries of. “but that’s not spiritual.” It’s true that reading a novel, doing a crossword puzzle or watching TV would generally not be seen as legitimate spiritual practices! Nevertheless, this Puritanical feeling of I should do something I don’t want to do, also does not strike me as meaningful.

The spiritual director and writer Cynthia Winton-Henry. says; “Too often we think that spiritual discipline involves suffering; “unless I suffer, I’m not learning or growing.” But, if we are seeking joy, does it make sense to get there through pain? … A sacred practice calls for an ethic of play where fun as a spiritual principle takes priority, even if it undermines the calcified, puritanical assumptions of the past with such “radical” ideas as;

~ I don’t have to be articulate

~ I have all the time in the world ~ Everything belongs

~ All creations are welcome

~ Curiosity rules

~ I can surprise and be surprised

~ I decide how I want to play

~ I decide when to rest

Sound too good to be true? Sound insane? Think of fun this way: Playfulness is not the opposite of work; it’s just a terrific way to get work done. Fun keeps imagination greased and spirit at the ready. It balances out egocentric ambition and elevates the most mundane acts to the heights of holy amusement.” *

So in these difficult days, I’d like to spread far and wide the suggestion to allow yourself to HAVE FUN! I hereby give you a pass on meditating every morning and instead ask yourself what would truly bring you joy. What would feed your spirit? Try it for a week and let me know what you do and how it goes! Paint, read, garden, do a jigsaw puzzle, walk, draw on the sidewalk with chalk…. Just to shake you out of your own seriousness. We all are in serious need of being able to have fun in this time of quarantine. I wish you luck in this assignment!

Quote from the book *Dance, The Sacred Art. by Cynthia Winton-Henry

And here's a poem from Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. for you too!


by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

It’s not because anything special happened. Though I’ve sat in silence in desert canyons and climbed iron rungs on overhanging cliffs and sung in cathedrals and sung in snow caves and hiked naked through juniper and washed dishes in inner city shelters and wandered the cobblestones of ancient villages, today, sitting on the couch in my own house, I finally understood with my whole body how life puts us in the places we need to grow.

And so I made tea. And sat a while longer with the windows open, listening to my longing as it wove with the sound of the sprinklers and the oven fan and I said to the moment, what do you ask of me?

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