Category Archives: Spirituality

Faint

via Daily Prompt: Faint

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There we were at Uluru, and in a part I hadn’t been to previously some years ago. There was, and not uncommonly, an overhang or shelter in the rock, and on the surface of the shelter there was this faint art work, which is ancient. I just cannot remember the meaning of this particular piece (others will remind me), but in every way it holds a significance and beauty I cannot put into words – you had to be there to experience it. What moves is the age, the simplicity (in my perception), the depth of meaning behind the simplicity, and just the simple fact that here I was, in 2017, close to this work which was ancient. Who had communicated this, what was it like, what did it say about them. However, the author of this work would probably ask no such questions. For me it was faint and faded but precious. And a faint call that turned to a roar,  of something about relationship, otherness, community, and life through time. Life in presence, attention and awareness. Strange how something faint, something beyond my experience, could be so profound and powerful.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under art, Country, history, life, Philosophy/Theology, Spirituality, Uluru 17

Panacea

via Daily Prompt: Panacea

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Photo from – unusedwords.com

Many years ago I knew someone who was working hard to get a hospice in the city of Perth. They and others achieved that aim, and now there are several facilities offering hospice care around the metro. Hospice care is for when there is nothing more that can be done for an ill person. It is holistic in that it covers more than just patient care and medication. It is all about reaching out to the family of the dying person (so that children are included and so that pets can also be included). And in regard to the person dying it offers spiritual guidance (which can be independent of a religious affiliation); social worker help; volunteers to sit with the person, allowing family to take time out; pain management, and general care.

I’ve had cause to visit people in hospice over the years. It is hard to accept death, but even more so for those who are family and close friends. Often they desire a miracle, a cure, something, a magic pill. I guess we’d all like a panacea that offers a comfortable exit.

But in my experience there is an alarming avoidance of pain to the point that death is sanitised. Now I’m not wedded to any view of assisted dying (euthanasia) or opposed to it in principle, but assisted dying is an avoidance of pain, perhaps a fear of pain. A common statement I hear often is “I’m not afraid of dying, but …. I don’t want to end in pain.” But who does?

I need to tread carefully here, but there is something about how pain is part of our journey as humans. This life is not a constant pleasure ride. Yet we desire to be rid of it, to avoid it, to never have pain. I’m struck by people who live with all sorts of pain, Maximillian Kolbe the Polish priest who gave his life in place of a young Jewish husband and father that this man might have life. Martin Luther King Jnr. who knew that death and discomfort was a real risk; the many people I have been privileged to journey with through terminal ilness and dying. Pain cannot be romanticised, nor should it be glorified, but yet it must be faced. Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her groundbreaking work of 1969, wrote passionately about dying and grieving.

Two things she has said:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. these persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”

Hospice is no panacea, it simply manages pain, among other aspects of life and death. Somehow I believe that we shouldn’t rush to end pain, not so that we can build character or grow, but so that we can face ourselves, our body, and all that goes with pain and death. And maybe we’ll overcome our fear of pain if we face up to it, and take a different route. In some ways, I’d like to see my carvings, my beautiful scars and know them. So don’t search for a panacea for me, just sit with me when the time comes, and rejoice in the beauty of the carvings of my life.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Neighbours?

via Daily Prompt: Neighbors

I’m tempted to say Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, for those of you who have encountered that TV show that began in 1985 and hasn’t stopped since.

I’m more interested in the ethics of who is my neighbour? In the gospel of Luke, there is a wonderful story of when a teacher of the law tries to test Jesus on his knowledge of the law. Jesus quotes to him the first two commands, love God and love your neighbour. The teacher of the law tries Jesus again and asks “And who is my neighbour?” And Jesus tells that famous story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ to illustrate loving your neighbour. The story focussed on the rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans and the vast cultural gulf that alientated them, but on this occasion a Samaritan is the only one to stop and help a victim of robbery, a Jew,  who is wounded and laying in the road. The story ties with another ethical dilemma from Matthew 5, where Jesus asks his followers to love their enemies. In essence, the ethical principle here is love everyone, even your enemies (which raises a question as to the nature and perception of who or what an enemy is, so a dig back at reframing is the way here). The outcome would be that love goes around, and thus we too will be loved, even by our enemies, or, what goes around comes around.

For me there is a further connect with the Buddhist principle of non-harming.

And in Deep Ecology – my neighbour is my neighbour, my sisters and brothers across the world, but my neighbours are also my lemon tree, the red gum out front, the silver beet out back, the family cat, the parrots eating off my fruit tree, the rats in the ceiling, the ducks in the diversion drain, the river nearby, the moon, the planets ….

If we loved our neighbours as ourselves, imagine the difference it would bring to the whole of life.

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G’day neighbours.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Gratitude

via Daily Prompt: Gratitude

Martin Seligman, sometimes referred to as the ‘father of positive psychology’ is well known for his work on Learned Helplessness and working with soldiers who have PTSD. At the core of his work is a basic principle: knowing and experiencing what it is that makes you happy is the first step in achieving it. Seligman and others have been advocates for the benefits of gratitude in changing stress, anxiety, relationship problems, and more. It’s a rewiring of the brain that is so simple and yet so profound.

But going further back, the spiritual greats like Meister Eckhart, St. Paul, Buddha, all speak of the centrality of gratitude for a fulfilling life. Again there is a basic principle, that once we realise we have life, that we have enough, that we are good enough, there is a sense of contentment and fulfilment in a spirtual sense that reorders our perspective on life. Hence the joy in poverty for St. Francis who surendered great wealth so that he could be free to serve the poor and the outcast.

I have a collection of quotes that I draw from periodically, and these are some of my favourites on gratitude:

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Marcel Proust)

“In a normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison)

“Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” (Melodie Beattie)

I can’t say I’m great at doing it, but more often than not I am grateful for much and try to express it. I try to recollect each day the good of it, no matter how small to the mind’s eye (yet huge to the heart), like a single blossom, an eagle in flight, a drop of water on a blade of grass have been a few. I think gratitude does change me, makes me more mindful, less greedy, more aware, less worried. For me the glass is always a gift no matter the level of fluid in it. Imagine a world of gratitude!

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Enlighten

via Daily Prompt: Enlighten

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When I was a child I had very limited interaction with indigenous people. As I have aged I have spent considerable time meeting with and reading about indigenous people and their culture. For me it’s the relational side that really helps enlighten, but I never discount reading, or watching documentaries.

The story board in the photo is part of an indigenous story trail above Windy Harbour. This board shows the six Noongar seasons. They are quite different to the four Euro seasons I have grown up with. The six Noongar seasons are: Beruc, Meertillook, Pourner, Meerningal, and Maunbernan.

Beruc is Decemebr – January; Meertillook is February – March; Pourner is April – May; Mancur is June – July; Meerningal is August – September; Maunbernan is October – November. When you live here for a time this understanding of seasons makes perfect sense. The Euro four seasons is not clear here, but, and it goes without saying, the indigenous seasonal calendar fits my experience. The six seasons also relate to different wind cycles, which is also my experience. The pictures on the story board tell the story of the seasons well.

I’d love to have these as our official seasonal guide, but they are specific to Western Australia, and only in the south, so it would only relate to people in our southern districts. Even so, it would be a positive step, because it would enlighten us to the great variety in the seasons, and would also explain our weather patterns.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under bush walking, Country, nature, Spirituality

Brave

via Daily Prompt: Brave

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Roman Catholic (Franciscan) priest Maximillian Kolbe, born in Poland in 1894, and following taking his final vows in 1918, was ordained a priest, and in the 1930s he served in both China, and then Japan where he helped establish a Franciscan monastry. He returned to Poland in 1936. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and occupied it. Kolbe refused to sign papers that would have granted him immunity as he was of German origin. He was, as were many Polish people, arrested. He was later released and allowed to return to work at the monastery where he managed large numbers of refugees, hiding and helping relocate many Jewish people, and writing anti-nazi propaganda. Eventually he came to the attention of the Gestapo and was arrested and imprisoned, eventually ending up in Auschwitz. He was regularly beaten and treated appalingly by the camp guards. In this he was no different to many inmates of Auschwitz. Where I think Kolbe defines what it is to be brave is where he one day stood in another person’s shoes.

At some point there was an escape from the camp, and the commandant ordered reprisals from among the prisoners. Ten were to be chosen at random. One young man cried out that he had a wife and children. Kolbe asked to stand in his place, and the commandant accepted his offer. The commandant ordered that the ten prisoners be starved to death in a cell, and as eye witnesses testified later, Kolbe was the last to die, and with dignity and calm.

I don’t know how you stand in the place of death for another, but Kolbe did. I have stood inside his cell at Auschwitz, an eerie place, and felt that a light had shone briefly here, that one person had been a beacon of hope for humanity in the midst of evil. For me Kolbe personifies what it is to be brave. He was powerless, yet he used his gift of life powerfully.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Circle

Circle

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Circles are in every aspect of life, from pratical wheels, to notions of the family circle, to schemas of life itself, the unbroken circle of love is one of those. The labyrinth is, for me, a special type of circle (and although not all labyrinths are circles, most are), it is a place to be still while yet moving, to be meditative, mindful, centered. I can be lost in a labyrinth without losing my way, and I leave things behind in the center if I want to or need to.

The labyrinth is also an ancient circle, an ancient wisdom (back to the Minoan civilization, and across other cultures on every continent) which doesn’t so much speak to me directly, but as through patient ferment, through the rhythm of our shared path. And it is a circle of life in that it breathes life through that rhythm, the movement is crucial, and so is stopping and pausing at the turns, and waiting in the center.

Sometimes I am on this journey alone, sometimes I encounter others along the way.

This circle is a friend, a real friend who holds a space for me and yet challenges too.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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