On Being Born... Being Alive and Becoming Aware

Today is my birthday! A good day to reflect on what being born might mean.
I'd like to say that I remember that day or rather - that moment ... the warmth and water of the womb, the cries of a mother as she labored hard, the movement, the passage, the pressure, the pain, the loss, the fear, the gasping of breath for the first time, my first cry, the arms that first held my helpless frame, the new air upon my skin, the cotton blanket wrapped around my shivering body, the first kiss of lips placed ever so lovingly upon my forehead , and how I gripped my father's finger with all my strength, the touch, the scent of skin, the sounds of unseen voices deep , rich and glad of my arrival, all of this and more... I'd like to say that I remember.
As I reflect on all this it occurs to me that although my conscious mind may not remember any of this, my body - incredible organism that it is - does. The body does not forget. The body is aware of much more than we can ever know and the body retains and remains a memory of everything. Yes...everything.

Perhaps what this says to me is that to be alive is to be aware. And to be aware is everything. To be born is to enter this world and to become aware. Ever more deeply aware. At this very moment to enter this world means to be aware of the feel of air on my skin, the sound of birds, and wind and voice, all the sights, and sounds, and scents, and sensations that present themselves to me at this very moment. In the stillness I become more and more aware of all this as well as the thoughts and feelings that roam in and through me...all of them. I become aware of my desires and of my deepest desires. Simply, wondrously, gratefully alive and aware. But lest this be of too narrow a focus we hear in the quiet a call to an ever expanding awareness to embrace, to see, to hear in ever widening circles of life.

There is a poet whose words I cherish. Listen to these lyrical lines from someone who entered this world again and again and who was more and more deeply and widely aware of life:

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God... go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young...re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."
Walt Whitman

And another... " This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
She may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."


In Joy and Gratitude for the Gift of Life!
Stefan Andre


The Heart of the Matter... Poems and Puns

At this moment many in the United States are focusing attention on the financial and political news that the mainstream media are presenting. Our economy , we are told , is in crisis and our political system is in dire need of fundamental change. Liberal and conservative arguments abound.In the midst of it all the heart aches for wisdom, for integrity, for truth. Candidates for president and vice-president hold debates and yet these seem more like info-mercials with scripted speeches and very little engagement with each other or with the issues. Candidates are rated on the basis of their appearance, their poise, their charm, etc... One would think this was a modeling school for some fashion magazine or a teenage dating service where wearing cool blue jeans would get you selected. Are we really this superficial?

Regarding the vice-presidential debates and at the risk of being perilously punny - while many thought that Sarah would Pal-in comparison to her opponent there were others who thought that Joe was simply Bid-den his time waiting for her to make a huge blunder. Apologies to all...

Recently I had the privilege of visiting a little community of people called Reba Place. They are about 300 people living in Chicago/Evanston. Let me tell you a bit about them. There is a core group that lives communally and shares a common purse meaning that all income goes into one common fund and from that fund needs are met. Interesting. And very monastic. One evening I sat with some of their young people watching the presidential debates and after we discussed it. One young man is from South Africa and he made an interesting observation. He asked " Did anyone hear Mr. Obama refer to the United States as " the greatest nation on earth"? Silence. It was a question that no one else asked. I raise this because I believe that this phrase ' the greatest nation on earth ' represents the kind of thinking that has landed this country in the economic/political dilemma we are in now. To actually believe that one's nation is the greatest nation on earth blinds us to the beauty and goodness of every other nation. We can no longer afford to be so blind. For at risk is not just our national well-being but the very survival of our beloved planet. Our encounter with other nations must come from a place of respect and humility.

More and more people are coming to realize that the heart of the matter is how we live. Do we live together wisely? Generously? Do we meet and greet one another with deep respect? Do our communities demonstrate another reality other than that of greed and selfishness? Hats off to little communities like Reba Place who in their meeting share resources and value justice. Do we really value people or do we use them like commodities to be consumed and discarded? Are we committed to one another for the long haul or just for the moment? I hesitate to use the word love in this context because it has been so misused in every context. But it is precisely love that is needed. Love does value persons in a deep and committed way. At the heart of the matter is meeting the other and loving wisely.

Two little poems that speak of meeting and loving...