The Field

The Field

There’s a field, said Rumi, outside all ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing. I’ll meet you there. I wonder about that field so different from the one we live in most of the time—a field we are constantly creating with our thoughts, words and actions. Yet beneath that seemingly solid field lies another one—a pre-existing field not made by human hands. Spun of the very breath of God—spun so finely it is invisible to the outer senses. Only the heart can sense it. Over this gossamer field, the divine breath created the world of nature as a gateway and gave us inner senses to mirror the outer—to apprehend it.

Just now, I’m sitting on a rock in the middle of a dry creek bed. I think I’m present, but my mind is playing with ideas about being present. Suddenly, through grace, the invisible world breaks through to me. I’m still sitting on the rock but now the breeze has come and gathered the leaves and branches of the great sycamores in its arms, and scooped me up and delivered me into the treetops. My being has been stretched and expanded.

Clouds float by, observing my body still sitting on the rock—the rest of me already merged with this invisible field that is inseparable from everything.  I have risen out of the core of my being and flowed into this field where there’s no judging, no comparing, no criticizing. Here there is only beauty flowing into beauty. I feel that I am a body participating in a greater body—the body of the universe that is not some distant place, but exactly here. The universe is a body flowing into my body and out into the field of beingness that holds me, that holds everything. For a few moments, I am completely naked. I experience the harmony of the universe, here on this rock, in this creek bed, listening to the wind in the sycamores. And for a moment, the people and animals who pass through this field in front of me are part of the field, and because we are naked, kindness flows between us. This is the field Rumi wrote about—the field outside all ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing. I’ll meet you there.

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Meditation and the Wondrous Cell—Healing Self and World

Cell Level Meditation by Patricia Kay and Barry Grundland is an important book to hold in our hands during these times of crisis. The wisdom about Health contained within this small book is vast. The fundamental message that the health of the body depends upon the health of the individual cell is no surprise to those who pay attention to such things. What is surprising is the delightfully simple way Kay tells the story of the cell and its magnitudes of potentiality. Healing, she tells us, may be as simple as learning how to feel, relate to, and communicate with this tiniest unit of life—the wondrous cell!

Cell Level Meditation was pioneered by Dr. Barry Grundland, MD, Kay’s mentor and collaborator. In a down-to-earth conversational tone, Kay augments scientific knowledge with her own knowledge based on years of experience working with critically ill patients, adding sweet servings of wisdom through stories and poetry.

The poetry—much of it by Kay—and the mystical poets Rumi and Hafiz, reaches into the cells of our being with a message of hope and Health. One of the most beautiful poems by Kay speaks of the Great Mystery alive in every cell. “Within the silence / of the silence / Just when you think you can’t bear it / another minute / And the ache of longing in your chest / is beyond belief / And the lump in your throat / is stinging your ears / And the howling of your yearning / ends in silence / Within the silence / of that silence / A new heaven opens.”

Cell Level Meditation is a book about meditation—using meditation to access the intelligence in every cell of the body in order to heal the body. Equally, it is a spiritual text guiding us on our life’s journey, which is always a journey of healing. Kay understands that healing is wholeness and this includes body, heart and soul. She manages to share these ancient wisdoms in such a clear, simple, and accessible way. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to everyone on the planet.

Cell Level Meditation is available on-line: where you can get a 25% discount. It’s also available on Amazon.

Stay tuned. Next I’ll be reviewing a new poetry book by my dear friend Barbara Schmitz, Sundown at Faith Regional.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

I don’t usually write about books I’ve read on this blog but I am making an exception for a wonderul book I read this summer by Ari Honarvar called A Girl Called Rumi. One of the perks of being more self-contained during Covid has been more time for reading. I hope you enjoy.

War, Poetry and Magical Realism

A Girl Called Rumi, Ari Honarvar’s debut novel, is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Honarvar carefully weaves the tragic history of family and country into a mysterious story guided by the great mystical teachings of ancient Persia. Throughout the book, which blends the harsh reality of war with the literary mode of magical realism, we are transported back and forth between Shiraz, Iran in 1981, San Diego, U.S.A in 2009, and the realm beyond the physical world where magic is the coin of the day and all things are possible.

In the first chapter we are introduced to the essential themes of the novel. On one side, fundamentalist political repression, war, trauma, and its effects on families, communities and country. On the other side, friendship, poetry, the transformative power of storytelling, and the great abiding truth that humans are in their core governed by kindness and goodness with a capacity for healing and reconciliation.

As the story begins, we meet Kimia—a rebellious nine-year old budding feminist determined to push the envelope of personal freedom as far as she can. Not easy in the midst of a brutal war with Iraq with regular aerial bombings and a very repressive Islamic regime installed in 1979.  In Kimia’s world, it is small acts of defiance that give her the will to persist through the extreme conditions imposed by war and the Islamic regime. It is her love of poetry and storytelling that shelters her from the worst of her traumas. Honarvar generously offers us verses of the great mystical poets, Rumi, Hafiz, and Saadi sprinkled like delicate spices throughout the book in a call and response between Kimia and the storyteller, Baba Morshid, and Kimia and her mother, Roya [Maman or mother].

Roya, who is a poet, suffers from war-induced PTSD and has become violent and abusive with Kimia. One of the many strengths of the novel is the portrayal of the mother’s humanity despite being “besotted with the splendor of her own madness.” She is wildly passionate and violent one moment, and the next reciting Rumi and bestowing great tenderness on Kimia. For Persians poetry is life. It is a path of resilience under the most difficult circumstances. Poetry never fails. One senses an irrepressible joy that bleeds through even in the midst of grief and loss. In fact, Honarvar writes that she sees joy as a revolutionary act.

The mystical undertones that flow throughout the story are revealed in the first chapter as Kimia encounters the storyteller while out to buy some bread for dinner. There in the middle of Felekeh Ghasrodasht Square is a makeshift stage. Baba Morshed is telling the story of the mythical bird—the giant Simorgh with her emerald green eyes who appears as a giant shadow puppet behind the screen as he speaks.  

Kimia is transfixed by the storyteller’s voice and his penetrating gaze which he has focused on her. She is transfixed by the movements of the Simorgh and doesn’t realize that in that moment an Iraqi bomb has exploded nearby and people are screaming and running away. In the middle of the mayhem, she stands utterly still, gazing at the storyteller who is smiling at her. Her older brother, Arman, comes to rescue her, and we begin to learn about the difficult family dynamics between the war-traumatized and abusive mother and a rebellious young girl.

Honarvar uses 13th century Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar’s Seven Valleys of Love as a framework for Kimia’s spiritual journey which is a journey of healing. In Attar’s story which unfolds skillfully as a story within the story, thousands of birds gather, called by the Hoopoe bird, to learn about this journey through seven valleys to the final valley where they will encounter the great Simorgh and become free.  Each valley presents obstacles that must be overcome. Thousands begin the journey with the Valley of the Quest but only a few birds arrive in the end to the Valley of Death and beyond to life.

Kimia unknowingly begins her quest after she discovers a secret trap door beneath the stage the day after the bombing. She ventures within and sees the giant Simorgh with its emerald eye which falls out as though offered as a gift to her. She steps into an underground room filled with trees, shelves of books, and one great book, unopened on the desk. The table is set with tea for two as though she has been expected. The storyteller appears and the magic begins!

The surface story moves between Iran and San Diego—a twenty-eight-year leap from past to present and back to the past.  In San Diego, we see the damaged lives of Kimia, her mother, Roya, and her older brother Arman. Page by page we see how each one has made a kind of truce with the past but the ceasefire has not led to peace. On the contrary, there are personal wars still being fought on a daily basis. The mystical story flows beneath past and present time, like a silent river.

The present rejoins the past when Roya decides to return to Iran where she hopes to die. Both Kimia and Arman accompany her. Through a cascade of events, missing pieces of the past come together. Unacknowledged grief surfaces as the secrets that have haunted each one now emerge from the darkness of repression. In a final piece of magical realism, as the story reaches toward its conclusion, Kimia returns to the storyteller’s den beneath the stage. Here the child she once was meets the adult she has become as she encounters the final Valley of Death. It’s a delightful ending full of surprise twists and turns.

As readers we are potentially more than witnesses to the story. We have also passed through each of the seven valleys, along with our cast of characters, including Attar’s birds, often reflecting on our life’s journey and its obstacles.  As I put the finishing touches on this review, a bird flies past my window and lands in a nearby tree. It’s a young broad-winged hawk. I think she senses me looking at her as she tilts her head in my direction. Is her appearance just now random? I don’t think so. There is magic afoot. Did you think this was not also your story? Keep watch for the birds. They will come. They will bring transformation.

If you love magical realism and poetry, you will love this book. If you love stories of transformation, you will love this book.  If you love sad stories with a happy ending, you will love this book. A Girl Called Rumi is—from beginning to end—an enchanting and life-affirming read. I highly recommend it.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

July 9, 2021

I return to the creek, again and again, as long as the water is flowing. I immerse my body in the cool fluids and hang loose as the clouds in this watery medium. Being in water connects us with the pre-eternal—the forever part of us that is always at home. Today, I return again in the evening to enjoy the water before the July heat sucks it into its deep pockets and the creek is bare.

It’s raining gently. Each drop forms a perfect circle rippling across the water’s surface—creating an infinitesimal world unto itself for an instant before merging with all the other drops. Each radiating circle is a never-ending lily pad made of water and light.

I watch as the drops multiply—forming circles within circles, each one interlocking with all the others like a Celtic knot. So many interlocking circles and waves radiating out make me feel dizzy—a psychedelic experience.  I wonder where all this water energy goes. Certainly, some of it has come to me. As I write these words, I still feel the aliveness. The trees feel it, I’m sure, and the wild ones that live nearby or pass through these parts—deer, fox, coyote, armadillo, and muskrat. No doubt the frogs and toads rejoice as they jump through these invisible lily pads.

Last week, kayaking in the Pacific Northwest during the extreme heat wave, we came upon a vast field of real water lily pads sparkling in the early morning light. The pads grow in family clusters, their cords intertwined, all spiraling up together from the floor of the lake. The tiny pads can’t drift far from each other and so they live in small units, part of a larger collective. Imagine a vast field of these little clusters, together collecting and reflecting the light. Monet would have been thrilled. I’m sure he would have painted the absent water lilies. Water is all about light. Water is the medium and the message. Water is the present and future. Without it we will fry. Water is life.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

June 24, 2021

I place my feet in the cold, clear water. For a precious moment, I am the only human in paradise. The little pool with its rapids is so inviting. Small river stones come shining up through the light-soaked water. The trees are full of breathing birds. Their songs flow into the early morning air. The ear of my heart opens with delight. The eyes of my skin open with curiosity. Turtle head peaks in and out of water. The sun’s rays splinter and fall on the trees across the creek, arousing the life-force in me. I hadn’t planned to swim this morning but my natural self—the one who knows she isn’t separate from water—or any other element—suddenly decides to slip into this water world. For a few eternal moments, I am a whole being, known to myself and known to the world around me. Just blue sky. Just the clear water. Just the little rapids. Just the rocks. Just the roar of nothingness flowing over the rocks. Just this roaring silence erasing what was. Just this. Just now—in wholeness.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

May 31

I know a tree—a magnificent live-oak. A world unto itself. It lives and breathes here in this place as it has for hundreds of years.  A towering presence—a grandmother tree, well over 40 feet tall. Its trunk and branches rise the heavenly way—so high I can’t see the tops of the branches.  Its long undulating arms stretch horizontally in all directions, offering resting places for birds, squirrels, lizards, geckos, cicadas, tree frogs, and other crawling critters. This splendorous tree grows alone in a restaurant patio, providing ample shade and a lively natural atmosphere, making the restaurant a very inviting place to be. We dine here from time to time, just to sit in her company.

What interests me today is the monumental girth of the trunk and how it meets earth. This solid mass just seems to disappear into the soil. Actually, of course, the tree has grown out of the soil, adding girth year by year with no evidence of disturbance to the surrounding soil.  Beneath lies a mass of hungry roots nourishing the tree—roots that reach out and intermingle with other trees in a web of interdependence. A silent world, invisible to us.

Tracing the meeting point of trunk and land around the circumference, I imagine the irregularities of bark creating a shoreline with many little coves. The brown mass becomes a sheer cliff whose base disappears like roots beneath the soil. I think of Italy—the cliffs along the Mediterranean creating another shoreline in another time. Places to explore, to discover. I want to get down on my knees and crawl around this magnificent tree pulsing with life with its inviting shoreline but—you know—I’m an adult. Instead, I imagine with my microscopic eye the tiny details where tree trunk meets earth as it has for centuries, where cliff and ocean meet as they have forever.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

May 12, 2021

The whole universe is but an immanence of beauty. –Hazrat Inayat Khan

Beauty expresses itself brilliantly in the way life returns its constituent elements to earth. I’m sitting on a felled tree, quietly giving itself to Earth. Here, in the magic place where the waters gather after a big rain, turning the stones and tree roots mossy green. Today I notice a pile of sawdust on the ground near my feet. My eyes follow the trail back to the trunk. I see a large round hole. Some sawdust hangs like Spanish moss from the edge of the hole. Little beings are carving out a home for themselves or some other creature. Every being makes a home for itself where it can, whether ants or human, whether inside a log or in a tent alongside the freeway. Whether in a refugee camp on the edge of a war zone or in a gated community, among the privileged.

This tree trunk is slowly rotting away on the forest floor, giving itself back to earth, while offering a home to some tiny creatures who will assist the tree in returning the elements to their source. What a harmonious arrangement. What beauty! And one day these same elements will arise in a new form, made possible by the natural process of destruction. What beauty!

Perfect beauty necessarily includes the sublime sense of grandeur and awe at the incomprehensibility of the creation and the tides of destruction that feed creation. A tree has given up its life and has become the source of life. I sit here in amazement, gazing at the perfection of creation. I hope when my time comes to give this body back to Earth, I will yield as gracefully as this great tree, surrendering the elements that held my form together back into the great cycle of creation—the cycle of birth, death, and regeneration.

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Being in Nature During Time of Pandemic

April 22, 2021—Earth Day [Posted out of sequence].

Humans are made of the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. We are a living embodiment of these elements. We cannot separate ourselves from them and still live. And yet we do separate ourselves. We seal ourselves away in an artificial world. Water comes from the tap. Fire from the cooking stove, air comes from the HVAC system, and earth? It is somewhere else entirely for much of our life. We don’t see that our body is a body of water. We don’t see that our bones and minerals are the earth element. Or that the fire element is our very digestive system and the warmth of our heart, and the air element is our very breath—one breath that is co-mingled with all that breathes. We don’t see that we are the sea turtle choking on plastic. We don’t see that we are the coral reef bleaching and dying because the body of our ocean is warming. We don’t even see that we are the vegetables and the soil growing in the backyard. We are all made of these same elements.

We urgently need to see ourselves in our elemental nature and yet we can’t be urgent. We exist as part of nature—we are nature—and nature has its own time—its own slow rhythm. Our most immediate task is to reconnect with the elements: to reclaim the very substance of our aliveness, our being; to remember ourselves as earth, sky, soil, mountain, river, ocean, sun, moon and stars; to enter into the world of nature, not as a tourist, but as an intimate part of nature. Because the fate of the elements is our fate. We are one body with one future. Let us go forward together, as one body.

Below is a guided meditation on the elements. This meditation uses the Elements Purification Breaths of Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan. Each breath is gentle and subtle. Notice each element has its own breath pattern. Practice with five breaths for each element. It is best done outside. I offer these healing meditations based on the elements every Wednesday from 11:00 to 11:30 am. These meditations are FREE. Please email me if you would like to receive the zoom links—

Earth—Archetype of Manifestation

The more one searches after truth, the more one becomes convinced…that man is a miniature of the universe externally, but perhaps the universe is a miniature compared with the true being of man. Within the four walls of the physical body there is land and sky and there is air…the more one can see the vision of what is within, the more one realizes that there is the whole cosmos. The sun is there, the moon is there, and planets are there, and even God Whom he worships, His seat is there. –-Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Earth breath is in and out through the nose.

Earth contains water and sky. It contains fire and air. Earth is the embodiment of life which is the coalescing of all the elements. Everything is interconnected. No element can exist separate from the other elements. Earth represents the gift of life. Think for a moment of the miracle of your life—here in this time, of all possible times. Unlike the heavenly realms, here humans can create and we have the possibility to become enlightened angels within these four walls of our physical being.

Water—Archetype of Generosity

All praise by Yours, my God, through Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure. –St. Francis of Assisi.                                       

The water breath is in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Water is generosity. It is a constantly flowing beneficence whose only purpose is to nourish life. The continuous action of doing good for someone else. Water nurtures, purifies and clears. Water does not keep to itself but spreads out giving itself to all it meets.  Generous giving. Giving itself away. The human body is a body of water with the capacity to nurture life, to give itself away in service to the whole. Feel the waters in your body—the rivers, streams and oceans—and the deep desire to offer yourself to life.

Fire –Archetype of Blazing Heart

When I open my heart, I become a burning flame. My invitation is to carry this light into the world and to see fire everywhere I look.  –Christine Valters Paintner

(S)he will cover you with (H)er feathers and under (H)er wings, you will find refuge. –Psalm 91.4. Think of a mother hen protecting her chicks.

The fire breath is in through the mouth and out through the nose. Fire represents the brightness and fiery nature that opens the heart. In the hearth of the heart, let our lives be the kindling that sets the heart ablaze. The soul is forged in the heart and the heart is awakened by the longing of soul. The heart responds to suffering and it breaks open. We allow the suffering to touch us—the suffering that feels personal but isn’t, and the suffering in far-away places. We allow it to transform our hearts. Think of a person you know who is suffering now and open your heart to encompass her/him. Think of a place in the world where there is great suffering and open your heart to receive the suffering and the gifts of mercy and compassion. See how the heart is a place of refuge for self and world. When we allow the suffering to enter the heart, we give refuge to the one who suffers and this includes the One who suffers with us.

Air—Archetype of Space

In the air there is an unbroken emptiness which extends everywhere and admits any and every shape. Nothingness is the antidote to all possessiveness. In a sense we are the pilgrims of Nothingness. –John O’Donohue

The air breath is in and out through the mouth.

Air is the sanctity of space—the space in which all life arises, subsists and fades away. Without space, there could be no existence: no galaxies, no universe, no Earth body, no human life, no trees or mountains or animals—no life at all.  Air is the sanctity of breath: the Breath Life, the Breath of God, the collective breathing of all beings co-mingling and sustaining life. of

Ether—Archetype of Possibility

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi Swaha. Gone, gone beyond existence and non-existence, gone to the land of pure happiness. –The Heart Sutra

The ether breath is in and out of nose and mouth together. Here is timelessness and utter stillness. No manifestation, no suffering, no generosity, no space. No beginning and no ending. The elements of life–Earth, Water, Fire, and Air are here in a state of harmony and perfection. They are completely undifferentiated.  We are not talking here about the actual earth, water, etc. but the vibrational element. Ether represents the infinitude of possibilities lying dormant in stillness until the impulse to become has been activated by the Creator. 

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The Healing Breath of LIfe

May 8, 2021—Mother’s Day

Today I celebrate my mother, Hazel Rainey Overeynder—peace be upon her—who taught me how to love by being such a loving and caring being. She was the goddess of mothering, willingly sacrificing her needs for those of her chicklings, her friends, and anyone in the community who needed anything. She’s been gone over ten years and I still miss her physical presence. I’m also celebrating myself as a nurturing presence—mothering anyone who will allow me to offer love and support. I can do this because HRO modelled it for me so beautifully. And, of course, I am still learning how to love—a monumental task.

Significantly, today I’m honoring Mother Earth who received the seed that was my soul as I entered into physical existence. We are earthlings, hatched from the cosmic egg—part of the diaspora of souls. We come helpless and completely dependent on our parents, on the Earth, and on our divine connection. As children we feel this divine connection naturally. We are, after all, mystics. We are drawn to nature from the very beginning. As infants we lie on the grass looking up at trees and sky and we are nourished. As children we prefer being outside where we commune with the soul of the Earth and with nature spirits. This is natural. This connection is a gift from the creator so we don’t get lost in the material world.

Each of us is part of this vast diaspora—a scattering of seeds across Mother Earth. Over 108 billion people have lived on Earth since the beginning of time. And our Mother has nourished and sustained us all.  We are spiritual beings exiled to planet Earth—not as punishment but as a sacred trust. We are the seeds of enlightenment—a diaspora of light come to Earth to witness ourselves as holy beings. We are exiles who have come here to bring news of the universe—news of goodness and kindness. We come with full support of the elements of earth, air, water, fire and ether to nurture us as we grow from seed to a fully human being. Though exiled, we are connected to our spiritual bodies via the soul. We can re-encounter this indestructible connection by concentrating on and feeling the silver chord connecting us to each of the elements and especially to Mother Earth.

Sadly, another diaspora of vast proportions caused by war and climate emergency is occurring now. People are rapidly being displaced from their traditional homelands with no place to go. This is a familiar experience for traditional people all over the world, caused by greed and conquest. The same greed and conquest, combined with ignorance, that has caused wide-spread destruction of Earth and her resources is driving today’s mass migrations. UNHCR estimated 80 million refugees worldwide in 2019. Mother Earth no longer has the resources needed to take care of all of us. She has been weakened and depleted and we are all responsible for her present state. I grieve for my part in the destruction. I know my individual actions alone won’t make much difference but collectively, our actions can make a big difference.

This day as we celebrate mothers, let us not forget Mother Earth and her need for care and nurture from all of us. It has always been a relationship of reciprocity with Earth—Earth cares for us and we take care of Earth. This sacred chord has been severed and humanity has forgotten its responsibility. We desperately need to remember how to take care of our Mother. As my dear friend Marsha Gomez, peace be upon her, member of the Choctow Nation, always said, caring for earth is our sweet responsibility.

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Being in Nature during Time of Pandemic

May 7, 2021

I have been quiet for the last few weeks—in a beautiful process of healing. This morning I looked out the window and saw the head of the Buddha peeking through the wild emerald grasses and this haiku came:

Buddha's head 
rises above the tall grasses
a beacon of green light

I offer this little verse as a healing for all who need healing everywhere on this planet. It comes from the greening power—veriditas—that St. Hildegard of Bingen wrote about. It comes from the emerald earth, every blade of grass imbued with divinity.

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