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Listening in the Snow

Wallace Stevens ends his poem The Snow Man with

“…For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And nothing (himself,) beholds

Nothing that is not there and nothing that is.”

Here in the Midwest this year we have had plenty of time to listen in the snow. A whole season dedicated to hibernation is a gift that not many creatures have (unless you are a bear); nonetheless, winter can be an invitation to slow and listen.

Gluggavedur is the Finnish term for “window weather”- those opportunities to be inside looking out at something beautiful. Acknowledging the times when you have choice to do that keeps winter fresh with offering repose and rest. Then there is a tandem energy of “hibernation bravery” — times when you feel compelled to get out there and be in the elements. Maybe you are not a big snow person, but even shoveling your sidewalk gets you fully into the experience of winter.

Whether you are hibernating, or braving the elements, we wish you a season with a bit more ease and inward restoration. May the Giver of all seasons find you here and meet you while you listen with a “mind of winter.”

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Await

Amongst hustle, between bustle glows a

bright star, its brilliance illuminating a

shadowed region you consistently overlook, wherein,

Wisepeople await who will signal,

directing you to the place which

you will find at the given time, the given place.

Not that there is hurry underfoot.

Not force, nor deception. It truly is just a poor woman

unsheltered, bearing something beautiful in the dark,

only farmhands who hear proclamations and live them well,

a season where oil lamps never die out. This mere

flash of hope against the night, but oh what

future might emerge from that flicker in each of us,

kindling a common fire to hover round?

Poem by Maia Twedt, 2022

Photo from Unsplash, Dan Kiefer

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Sensing Sufficiency

Much of life is lived wanting more.  

More time, more experiences, more attention, more stuff.  Instead of reaching satiety we continue that everlasting search for… something.

What would it look like to acknowledge sufficiency?  

That I am enough, that I have enough, that enough will be available.

Sufficiency.  Satiety.

This is not a call to ignore deep need: poverty, war, inequity.  We ought to turn toward them, rather than away.  Turning toward creates awareness of our own sufficiency, which in turn fuels generosity.

In the Hebrew scriptures in the book of Exodus, Yahweh provides plentiful manna to eat fresh each day; however, it could not be hoarded, as it would spoil.  The effect was a trust in providence, of provision.  Also important is that these gifts were made available for all-  not just for some.

May a refrain be present among us: I am enough, I have enough.  May there be enough to go around.

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Letting Go

Red sumac signals a transition,

drifting maple leaves a release,

a benediction of reprieve

o changing one,

who tilts the axis to

shift a season, let me

change too, and decompose

ambition and relinquish

so much striving 

my movement synchronizing

with a tender, transformed earth,

my breath with yours and blurred

among the colors, in its brilliance

and oh the quiet

Poem by Maia Twedt maiatwedt@gmail.com

Artwork by charlee gorham  charlee.gorham@gmail.com

Featured

Cultivate Calm with Ujjayi Breathing

Woodlake Nature Center, Walking Meditation Way Opening Workshops 2022

Maia Writes:

We need a repertoire of tricks to help ease stress.  Especially stress that is ambient and unrelenting- war, poverty and inflation, climate crisis, an unrelenting pandemic, racial inequality.  It all adds up into a communal equation of strain.

People are talking about the ujjayi breath, also called the “Darth Vader breath.”  Kimberly Wilson – cake baker extraordinaire on the Great British Bakeoff- and simultaneously a psychologist- is an author who writes about this and inspired me to try it. She says that this kind of breath of nasal breathing activates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is super cool!  Apparently, it is an “information highway” between the brain and the gut, running through all our internal organs. It releases a hormone called acytecolene which is calming for the body, and which is especially activated by constricted throat breathing like ujjayi.

So here is how you do it- it is simple. Constrict the back of the throat when you exhale (like you are fogging up your bathroom mirror)- only, exhale through the nose for a count of four, and inhale through the nose for a count of four, and then hold your breath at the top for a count of four- Repeat.  This pattern stimulates the vagus nerve, and honestly- I can feel immediate effect in my body when I practice this. Studies show that two minutes of this allows your blood pressure to drop and inflammation to decrease.

Obvious Disclaimer- this breath will not change the conditions around you- there will still be climate change. There will still be racial inequity. Inflation – also still real. And my kitchen is messy, my lawn is drying up, and my dogs need walking. But with this calm activation in the body, we are all more able to be a change agent in the world. Better equipped to express faith and values in the lives we live. A byproduct of this calm brings more awareness of divine guidance, and more openness to its leading. May it be so, for you- your loved ones- and your family Earth.

Source: How to Build a Healthy Brain by Kimberly Wilson

Falcon 9 Rocket Scrub

It took such planning,

Such precision, the

Certainty that something stationery could become airborne,

Effort encompassing good intention, good effort.

Good money.

Just that all the hope and vision in the world can

Bend toward something unforeseen:

Hope diverging from strategy, its

Position firmly in the realm of 

Universal beneficence, guiding

Tikkun olom toward global resonance and

Quiet restoration of the common canopy under which

We live, move, and have our being.

Maia Twedt, poet

Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תִּיקּוּן עוֹלָם, lit. ’repair of the world’) is a concept in Judaism, which refers to various forms of action intended to repair and improve the world.

The overturning (of Roe v Wade)

Barriers, photo by Maia Twedt

When we learned of it we became lost

In our hometown. Landmarks repositioned themselves like

Building blocks, some disappearing altogether into the

Quicksand of patriarchy. On dark streetcorners

Women stood in fear for their lives as always, shining of both

Terror and triumph. And if you look back now-

You may see them hardened into pillars of salt.

If instead you avert your gaze, negligence

Will encroach upon the future, spreading

Malignant tentacles over your children and theirs, in

This very body, this very home, this holy space

Shared one with another.

Maia Twedt, permission to repost granted

I am who I am

Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, exhibit at Hirschorn Museum in Washington DC

Maia Writes:

This is the season of graduations, and I have a Beloved one who graduates from high school in a couple of weeks. I am noticing the questions that are asked of young people at this stage. Queries range from “where have you been and what have you done?” to “where are you going and what will you do?”

It draws me back to the concept of the Hebraic God, Yahweh, who was given the name YHWH because this god was “the one who cannot be named.” This god made the response “I am who I am” when the people’s curiosity got the best of them. This god felt no compunction to offer a litany of references, nor to reply with all their godly qualities that proved fitness for the task ahead.

Instead this great “I am who I am” appears on the scene at random times, often unbidden, to show the people how more fully be who they are meant to be. YHWH leads them out of slavery. Guides them to new land. Invites them into communal life.

There is so much pressure to be a certain kind of a person, to aspire to a particular job or earn a good reputation. The “I am who I am” is the faithful reminder that I am who I am not because of successes or failures, or because of where I come from, or because of what I am becoming. I am loved simply by virtue of being human… being who I am. What a great relief and gift to be accepted in this way.

Note: This photo was taken by Maia in an experiential exhibit of artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama is a Japanese artist who struggled mightily with mental illness, born in 1929, and just recently become popular. Her work utilizes the viewer as an instrument to express the concept of infinity, and she has created a series of Infinity Rooms. This is a visual reminder that we embody a fragment of infinity by an artist who is fully who they are, without apology or explanation.

Walking into a new perspective

Maia writes:

Infectious disease director Michael Osterhold said in the middle of the pandemic: “Every morning, I scrape five inches of mud off my crystal ball.  Any effort to predict a future course beyond 30 days relies on pixie dust for its basis.”

I find this statement both exhilarating and horrifying these past years.  I am a planner, and I like to know what lies ahead.  The allure of certainty is seductive and can be distracting at certain junctures..  Enter the experience of meditative walking: Walking is truly an exercise in befriending uncertainty.  Sometimes we choose a path, and sometimes we settle on a path.  Either way, the true work is to appreciate not only what lies ahead but also what exists underfoot.  

Thich Naht Hanh popularized the concept of walking meditations, and has so much wisdom about tending to the body and mind as one walks.  He says:

Take my hand. We will walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere. Walk peacefully. Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk. Our walk is a happiness walk.

Of course, a path does not always feel “happy.”  In walking an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain, The Camino de Santiago, I was grieving a deep loss.  Climbing up at the close of one day to the monastery at Roncesvalles, I was tired and angry.  I wanted to eat, and then cover my head with a sheet.  Instead I was greeted by an exuberant monk who forcefully cajoled us to stay for a blessing..  As he sprinkled holy water over us with a pine branch and intoned Spanish liturgy, I thought about all the steps upward I had taken to this place.  About how I did not necessarily choose to be in this place of grief, and yet here I landed.  Suddenly though, as I lifted my face to the sprinkles of water, it felt right to be at the top of the Pyrenees Mountains in this place and in this time.  The past, present, and future felt synchronized and embodied.  Roncesvalles became a turning point, a healing place, a refuge.

Come walk with us at Way Opening Workshops this summer.

Pacifism and pain

~Anne
I am, at my core, a pacifist. As a Quaker and a human connected to other humans, I do not believe that violence can solve a problem, whether violent words or full-scale war. Like others, I have been watching in horror at the invasion of Ukraine -the heartbreaking stories told by those who’ve fled, the images of families in shelters and buildings in rubble. It’s difficult to know how to respond and I’ve marveled at the creative ways people are getting money and medical supplies to those in need. I believe that the holy is found in those moments of generosity and inventive ways of addressing conflict and need. That God calls us to engage creatively in the world to heal each other’s wounds. I endeavor to do this in my work and my life. 

I took a cab the other day and my cab driver was from Mali and listening to the news in French. When I commented, he unleashed a torrent of words and pain as he drove. He is outraged at the Americans and all the talk about the war and refugees. I assumed he meant because the media is paying more attention to these white, urban refugees wearing jeans and T-shirts than it does to brown and black refugees, something others have commented on as well. But no, he went on to share that for all the years the French colonized his country, the U.S did nothing. He described being forced to learn and speak French; what it feels like to have one’s country robbed of its gold and other precious metals, the pain of being ruled by another country that is so different from one’s own. He went on to say that the only people that helped were the Russians. And that is why he is in such conflict now. He cannot condemn the Russian invasion because they were the only country to come to the aid of his home country. The phrase, “only the Russians helped us” was repeated in English and in French. 

It was humbling to hear his story and while I would have argued with most anyone else about the Russians being “good guys” in this war, I didn’t feel I could contradict, or even, suggest an alternative viewpoint to this man. Certainly not when he was so visibly upset. I do not know what it is to live under colonial rule. I do not know what it is to feel subjected to the will of another people, nor the sense of gratitude to a country willing to give you weapons to free your country. I do know I have a visceral reaction to the idea that the people who give you weapons are your allies.
I also acknowledge that I live in a culture that venerates power more than peace. And so I sit with this knowledge -this deep knowing and the not-knowing. I don’t feel creative. I am at a loss as to how to engage in this trauma, this pain, in any meaningful way. I have to trust that prayer makes a difference; that way will open when I listen for how I am led to respond. I need to not become complacent just because the situation is complicated and overwhelming and far away. But I also cannot respond from a reactionary place because that’s not helpful either, and might shut down another’s story that needs to be voiced. So I live in the messy middle of demonstrating and voicing concerns and sending money, and knowing that I may be asked to do more at some point. I just don’t know what that will look like. But I trust that prayer will help guide me. And so I turn to the poetry of John O’Donohue,
In these times when anger
Is turned to anxiety 
And someone has stolen
the horizons and mountains…
May we have the courage 
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety 
Back into anger,
How to find our way home. 

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