Thanks to friend, David Jenkins for recently sending this poem below. Jan Richardson, the author, is an artist, writer, and minister in the United Methodist Church. It is from her book, The Cure for Sorrow.
I post the poem here for any of us, that in addition to helping amidst CoVid on the external, are also leaning further in to this ripe moment and deep challenge of the personal internal.
This is the Blessing in the Chaos
To all that is chaotic in you, let there come silence.
Let there be a calming of the clamoring,
a stilling of the voices that have laid their claim on you,
that have made their home in you,
that go with you even to the holy places but will not let you rest,
will not let you hear your life with wholeness
or feel the grace that fashioned you.
Let what distracts you cease.
Let what divides you cease.
Let there come an end to what diminishes and demeans,
and let depart all that keeps you in its cage.
Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos,
where you find the peace you did not think possible
and see what shimmers within the storm.
It’s a poem I wrote a few years ago. At a time of clarifying more of the story behind the story. For humans. And in many forms of system, be it family, community, team, or organization.
It’s a story that remains very accurate to me. One that I hold sometimes with joy, seeing that others are so seeking this kind of relationship together. And sometimes with sadness, seeing that numbing, and rushing to create more numb, and isolation — these are often the default ways of being.
This week I am co-hosting a group of 40. In a shape that will likely look something like this. Where we will likely remember some of the story behind the story, of how connection always matters.
In These Times, Friends Matter
In these times,
the people we turn to.
To be heard by.
To be seen by.
To be loved.
In these times
staying awake matters.
Interrupting the many seductions
It takes discipline, doesn’t it.
In these times
dwelling in complexity matters.
Old fixes don’t work.
Imposing them more loudly doesn’t work.
Looking for patterns does.
and union with life itself.
In these times
presence is core competency.
It is the core competency.
We grow it together,
and asking questions.
What matters to you?
What is it like to be you?
What has your attention?
What makes sense for us to do now?
In these times
Turn, and turn, and turn again
to one another.
This morning has been sorrow-filled for me. No particular incident. Perhaps several smaller things that have grown. But, perhaps just a mystery wave that has felt gigantic. I continue to learn about feeling those waves. Just because. And not particularly connected to this picture above (but I like the blatantness of these trees fallen — life and death are natural in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains).
The American Psychotherapist and Soul Activist Francis Weller talks about how all of us must develop an “apprenticeship with sorrow.” My brain can hear that. Makes sense. For all of us and the varied experiences of sorrow that are part of being human. My heart can hear that too. Except when I feel that I’m drowning in the sorrow. Again, mystery.
Quanita Roberson and I encountered each other as participants at a writing workshop. That was 2013. We’ve grown a friendship and a colleagueship over these last six years. We’ve grown a body of work that is soulful. Soulful enough to go to places of deep sorrow. In ourselves and with others.
I’m grateful for the insight that shows up regularly with Quanita. She’s a smart cookie. And I’m grateful for the added smart cookieing that we are together. Stuff shows up. It’s field. It’s openness. It’s attention to what is emerging. It’s rooted in the orientation that we humans are figuring a few things out as we go. Like sorrow.
Today, on a mystery sorrow-filled morning, I’m glad for a bit of wisdom and kindness with Quanita that points to all of us needing to become more skillful at sorrow / grief. It’s wisdom that normalizes the experience (I would say calls it out as a natural and needed growing for the times within which we live). It’s wisdom that says, don’t swim alone in the ocean that sorrow can be (ain’t no way that I’d swim alone, but I tend to take on sorrow alone).
Quanita and I will continue our offerings — they are with increasing frequency to help the people who are helping people. It’s not too late for Fire & Water, where I have the hunch, that the pod of participants and us will figure a bunch out together. Like sorrow. And waves. And inner world connected to outer world. Like wisdom. And community. And how fear impacts us. And hope too.
These words below from American Author, Elizabeth Lesser sound true. I suppose I hope that they are true, for all of us. I notice that it’s just harder to remember such words when in the full descent, which I suppose is why it’s good to have them written!
I’ve come to learn that the full descent, though it can’t be taken for us by friends, it can be witnessed. The ups. The downs. The surprise prolonged dwellings. The “thought I was through but gotcha’s.” The witnessing does help, I think. Over tea. Across from each other on a couch. Or through a computer screen. Or through a burried face into a shoulder that catches tears.
Sometimes, however, I wonder if at the bottom of such surrender, is even the removed need to be witnessed. And that helps us find our way.
From Elizabeth Lesser…
When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss,
and dwell patiently with an open heart,
in darkness and pain,
we bring back up with us the sweetness of life
and the exhilaration of inner growth.
When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self —
the self that is whole, the self that is enough,
the self that no longer looks to others
for definition, or completion, or anything
but companionship on the journey.
This is the way to live a meaningful and hopeful life —
a life of real happiness and inner peace.