Thursday, September 25, 2014

"A Spirituality of Transfiguration"

"Spirituality is the art of transfiguration. We should not force ourselves to change by hammering our lives into any predetermined shape. We do not need to operate according to the idea of a predetermined program or plan for our lives. Rather, we need to practice a new art of attention to the inner rhythm of our days and lives. This attention brings a new awareness of our own human and divine presence. A dramatic example of this kind of transfiguration is one all parents know. You watch your children carefully, but one day they surprise you: You still recognize them, but your knowledge of them is insufficient. You have to start listening to them all over again.

It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness than with the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their life into proper shape. The intellect identifies the goal of the program, and the will accordingly forces the life into that shape. This way of approaching the sacredness of one's own presence is externalist and violent. It brings you falsely outside yourself, and you can spend years lost in the wilderness of your own mechanical, spiritual programs. You can perish in a famine of your own making.

If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore, you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey. There are no general principles for this art of being. Yet the signature of this unique journey is inscribed deeply in each soul. If you attend to yourself and seek to come into your presence, you will find exactly the right rhythm for your own life. The senses are generous pathways that can bring you home.

A renewal, indeed a complete transfiguration of your life, can come through attention to your senses. Your senses are the guides to take you deep into the inner world of your heart. The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridges to the world. Human skin is porous; the world flows through you. Your senses are large pores that let the world in. By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect have constructed."

-Anam Cara by John O'Donohue

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gray Areas again

I'm still contemplating this idea of gray areas being a blending beyond distinction or separation. (See post "Gray Areas"). And then I found these:

These two pieces are called "The Kiss" (top) and "Lovers" (bottom) by a Polish artist Jarek Puczel. It represents a symbiotic union, no division of where one begins and the other ends.

Isn't that what intimacy looks like? Or at least what it's intended to look like?

COALESCE means to "come together and form one mass or whole." Plato said it like this in his work "Sophist", he said, "When a thing's own light and the light from something else, coalescing into one on bright and smooth surfaces, produce a form which yields a perception reversed from the way a thing normally looks."

Things so intimately and directly blended and joined that your very perception of its normal form is reversed...I want that.

I think that's what gray areas do for us, they reverse our perceptions...or at least they can if we would tap into it. "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." -Auguste Rodin

Maybe I'm not making any sense. Let me try putting it this way:

We typically label areas of doubt or uncertainty as gray areas; for example, the Bible is full of gray areas- areas that weren't totally unveiled, a lot was left for interpretation; more room being left for vague mystery than for solid-concrete-definitive answers. We all have gray areas like that in our life. So what if, instead of pushing these areas aside or leaving them to the perpetual back-burners, tossing them in the junk drawer, we turned to them and faced them head on; jumping off the cliffs of clarity into the illustrious pools of mystery and loom? What if we stopped soley relying on the obvious color choices on the pallet before us and we became immersed in the seach and discovery of the colors within the gray?

What if we stopped taking our observations of God from the obvious handouts passed down from vessel to vessel and we saught Him in the hidden realms where color has to be revealed and discovered? What if we coalesed with God? What if we coalesced with our gray areas, reversed our own perceptions and of those observing?

I think if we delved deep enough, lingered long enough, and soaked in the areas that we push out because they are messy, I think that we'd find Him there in ways beyond translation. I think we'd meet Him in an intimacy beyond words; a coalescing that leaves our perception forever reversed and areas of our lives so completely blended that we walk out looking like one of Jarek Puczel's paintings.

That's something I want.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gray Areas

A dear friend of the family has graciously been trying to teach me how to paint and from day one she has been trying to get me to detach myself from an expected outcome, to stop forcing the process and to let it flow. Easier said than done. I'm just now learning and beginning to scratch the surface of letting go and trusting God to direct my hands and allowing Him the liberty of speaking to me through art without any pretense of subject and without an agenda.

What you see is what came out of one of these painting sessions. And totally unbeknownced to me as to why, I was completely and utterly drawn to it. It resonated with me on such a deep level and I had no idea what the hell it was about or what it could possibly mean. So I just listened.

I had started painting a picture of my Wonderland with pinks tones and trees and an ocean far off and myself in a spirit of freedom. Then I had this dark gray-navy color in my mind so I went over everything I had painting with it, still letting some pink show through. I put on the Narnia soundtrack (because it's deliciously mystical and haunting and I love it) and I painted. On my pallet was an array of colors, but it's amazing how all the colors I used made a gray when fully blended together. And as I reflected I began to see what it was all about.

Our gray areas are not void of color, they are simply beyond present distinction. There are hundreds of colors within the gray.

An excerpt from my journal: Perhaps this is a truer picture of Wonderland. Sometimes the colors are obvious and sometimes it's too hard to tell what it is, only the assurance that it is something and perhaps several somethings- that in the microscopic details of the gray there is color and life and communion of the two, too intimate perhaps to separate...the first attempt is what I can see. The second is what I feel. What I can see is limited, but what I feel in connection to Wonder is infinite...limitless.

Gray areas have such a negative connotation but it is a truer picture of where real life actually happens. And how beautiful to know that those areas are not denied color but that those areas are made up of color meant to be experienced and known beyond the surface.

Take heart. You're not lost.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Once Upon A Dream

"I know you

I walked with you once upon a dream

I know you

That look in your eye is so familiar a gleam

And I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem

But if I know you, I know what you'll do

You'll love me at once

The way you did once upon a dream."

I feel in my marrow that upon arriving at heaven's shore this could very well be the scene. A divine, mysterious, innate familiarity. Yours is a face I have never seen before, but I know You. That life before will seem a dream, a sleep from which we have woken upon which we will find our balance and be properly introduced. But if I know You I know what You'll do, You'll love me at once the way You did once upon a dream.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It started with a portrait.

There once lived a lady whose home was a treasure to see. She had lived a long life and her home was her scrapbook, her testament to its fullness. On every table, on every wall, were scores upon scores of elegant picture frames filled with the most amazing images; a thrilling display of black and white, sepia, and color.

Most who walk into her home for the first time feel crowded and overwhelmed and think her a hoarder, and in a way they are right. She was a hoarder, a hoarder of experiences- which anyone who spends two seconds in her home can see. Each carefully selected frame holds a moment in time, a memory, an experience.

If you could still visit her now you would find her the kindest and most gracious of hostesses. She would not be offended by your distraction nor your dumbfoundedness over the mass array of photographs, rather she was always most welcoming to any sign of curiousity and freely offered her walls for your viewing pleasure.

"Please, take a look around if you wish. Pictures are made to be looked at." she would say.

And as you began to peruse her home, scanning the walls up and down, pointing every now and again, she'd be waiting where you left her, smiling as she listened to your every reaction, anticipating the photographs you would see next.

"Oh my gosh! Is that you?!" you would ask. And she would giggle and say, "At one time, yes."

" really did that?!" you might exclaim without thinking. "Oh yes." she'd say and she'd probably share a little about it depending on how fast you're moving.

All in all, you would be in awe. You would leave inspired. You would ever go on about your life remembering that woman and how she lived her life with extravagance and recklessness. You'd remember her as someone who dared to take on new things and never let fear or pressure or doubt stop her. If you could meet her, you'd admire her for all your days. I guarentee those pictures would have changed your life as much as they shaped hers.

The thing of it is that we would all admire her. We would all aspire to be like her whether or not our actions would ever affirm our desire. But for all her pictures you saw, not one depicts the questions and the grappling she faced in between the frames. And that's where most of us, who met her, faltered along the way. We left her home so ready to take on our desires and ambitions, but along our road to new life we began accumulating doubts, criticism, social pressures and challenges. Always remembering the images in her home, we press on until something somewhere breaks us and we give in. I suppose we all imagined her as never having faced those complications. I suppose we all convinced ourselves that she was different, her life was different, her time was different; not so like ours with all its restrictions and conditions. At least, that's what I told myself.

When I heard that she was dying I knew I had to go to her one last time. I went to her home where she called me back to her bedroom where she lay adorned in a stunning white lace gown, something I didn't notice upon entering because I had actually never been in this room. There was not a single frame, but there were a thousand pictures and not a single one of them was of her. Every wall, even the ceiling, was covered with portraits serving like her own wallpaper. She noticed my distraction, as she always had done. I was so overwhelmed by this room that I completely forgot my reason for being there, but somehow she knew. How, I'll never know.

"These are all my friends and family," she began, "people I've adopted through the years and people who adopted me. People come in my home and they see all the things I've done, all the places I've been, and all the adventures I've taken, but they never ask me how I did it, how I kept going all these years. If they had, I would have shown them this room. These people remind me of who I am and some remind me of who I am not. Oh life was not all a fairy tale for me as so many of my visitors assume. I faced questions I never found answers for, even now I go on asking some of the same old questions never forgotten, never answered. But questions are not as strong as revelations. These people were witnesses to my life. Some brought out the best in me, some brought out the worst in me, but every one helped me become who I am. What you see in my home are just things I did, but who I am is in this room. Determination will never last as long as relationships my dear."

She went on to tell me encounter after encounter as I went around the room pointing to portrait after portrait putting the depth and breadth of her memory on display. I learned more about her that day, about her life and how she got from frame to frame...I don't think I truly knew her before then. She was right. Who she was was in that room. She had answered a thousand unsung questions in my heart with every picture in her room. But before I left, I had one more question that needed answering and it wasn't the one I had come to ask her, "May I take your picture?" She just smiled and without words I understood her answer. I took out my phone and captured her portrait. Her face ever to remind me of the revelation she gave me. I thanked her, hugged her, and turned to leave.

"Before you go. Pick out a frame from one of my walls and take it with you, only leave the picture on the kitchen table. Make sure you fill it. Fill all the frames you can." Those were her last words to me.

When she died I went to her grave to leave her a token of thanks for her life, a portrait- my portrait. And in proper fashion I was once again dumbfounded, in awe, and overwhelmed by the piles of portraits surrounding her headstone; people forever standing witness to the woman she was; a ceremony to forever imprint how we would go about filling our frames. For me, it started with a portrait.

"Fill all the frames you can."


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be You

"Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity not the standards by which I must live, but the standards by which I cannot help but live..."- Parker Palmer (taken from The Identity Project by Patrick Dodson.)

"After years of training to become a professional ballet dancer, artist Kylli Sparre realized it wasn’t the path for her and instead channeled passion for dance into photography and image manipulation. The influence of her past career is immediately apparent when viewing her conceptual photographs that depict posed figures, taunt with energy, at the peak of choreographed motion (taken from"

A common theme I hear when I talk to people is the struggle of having to choose a passion to focus on, whether they are just starting college and having to choose a major or whether they are out of school and now struggling with their choice and/or battling to find a career. Growing up we constantly have observers highlighting certain skills and advising a career path that expounds on those skills they've witnessed. For instance, in school I was really good at geometry and loved drawing buildings- I had multiple people tell me that I should be an architect, but I'm not an architect, that's not who I am; being good at geometry and loving old buildings are simply expressions of a very intricate identity, they are tells of deeper truths not direct lines to a future. Like I heard Patrick Dodson once say, "Who you are is not one thing, who you are is like fifty things." See it's not about finding that one thing that fits you, it's about listening to your life and bringing that uniqueness of you to the table and revolutionizing the status quo you face or have quite possibly erected yourself. "Letting your identity inform and reignite your passion grows clarity inside of you, which leads to ideas, dreams, plans and then choices that become a daily reality."- The Identity Project by Patrick Dodson

That's what I love about this photographer Kylli Sparre, she tried being one thing and that didn't work out (I'm sure we all can relate), but she didn't toss the one thing- she joined it with a melody of other passions creating something that is original, breathtakingly stunning, and uniquely her.

Don't just be another photographer. Don't just be another dancer. Be you.

*all photos were taken from

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The 5 Senses

If I were blind, I would rely on touch and sound, smells and tastes to guide me; I would be totally dependent on my other senses to communicate the atmospheric circumstances back to me. The sea would not be known by the picturesque scenery, but by the smell of the salty air, the sound of the waves crashing and the gulls cawing, the feel of the sand and the water, and the taste of sea's spray on my lips.

If I were deaf, the gap of sound would be filled with sights, sensations, smells, and tastes; true I would never know what wind would sound like, but I would see it and feel it in more ways than could be heard, perhaps I could smell the wind coming before it came and perhaps I could feel the birds sing when the sun rises because of the sensory song that it composes in me.

If I were stripped of my ability to feel, my eyes and my ears would be my hands, and my nose and my tongue my means of engaging and experiencing. True, I would never know texture or temperature, but I would know the fragrance of the grass and the taste of winter far more intimately than the simple touch of snow.


We say we serve an invisible God, yet we are made in His image. We say that God's voice is discerned and not heard, yet He speaks. We say that God is Spirit and cannot be touched, yet He touches us. We say that God is a heavenly being and is therefore not something to be tasted, yet He invites us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. We say that God is a mystery and therefore incomprehensible to even think of smelling a Deity, yet He says that "we are the aroma of Christ" to Him.

If God is not to be experienced through the senses, then why give us eyes with which we cannot see Him, ears with which we will never hear Him, hands with which we cannot touch Him, tongues with which we cannot taste Him, and noses with which it is inconceivable to smell Him?

And if He is not to be seen in full glory, then oughtn't He be known to us as the sea is known to the blind? And if He is not to be audibly heard, then oughtn't the gap be filled with sights, encounters, tastes and smells? And if He is not one that can be touched, oughtn't we be looking and listening- knowing His fragrance and His taste far more intimately?

Yet it remains that eyes are for seeing, ears for hearing, hands for touching, tongues for tasting and noses for smelling; these are the tools given to us to perceive, connect, and engage with all that is around us. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. Do you know what He smells like? Do you know what He tastes like? Do you know what He feels like? Can you call out His voice from a thousand others? Can you pick out His face in a crowd?

I think He's waiting to be discovered.

I think He's waiting for you.