‘Til Death Do Us Part

I haven’t posted on my blog for a long time, because I have been absorbed in the process of getting married.

Such a process. And we started out saying we wanted a simple wedding. But even with a simple wedding, there were so many details to attend to: creating a guest list, designing an invitation, finding a venue, researching a caterer, choosing a menu, manifesting table decorations—and on and on.

But we did it all, and now we are wed. Clay Elliott is my beloved husband. It is very good.DSC_7932

The most important part of the preparation was creating the ceremony, which we did with our dear friend Cedar, who was also our minister.

What promises do we make, we asked each other,  when we marry at the age of eighty? And we found that they were the same promises we had made long ago when we married in our youth. The language of love and commitment is archetypal, timeless.

But now, some sixty years later, these words—to love, honor, comfort and cherish, ’til death do us part—have deeper, richer meaning, seasoned by the experiences of our previous marriages and by the tempering of some sixty more years of living. All the hopes and disappointments, the unrealistic expectations, the gifts, the fears, the mistakes, and the many good times, have shaped us, carved us out, so we can hold more. This love has never been the crazy love of desperation that I wrote about in an earlier post, “The Insanity of Falling In Love.” From the beginning it has been gentle, fun, growing gradually, sweet.

When I was married the first time, at age eighteen, I was full of dreams, but I didn’t understand unconditional love as I am learning to understand it now. I don’t think I understood commitment at all. How could I? I was barely more than a child, though I would soon become a mother and begin to learn about commitment as only a beloved baby can teach you.

Getting married is huge. The commitment is huge. I have promised to love and care for this one dear man, no matter what, for the rest of my life. At this age the no-matter-what contains the sureness that we will face aging and infirmity together and one of us will have to deal with the death of the other. That is, of course, true whenever you marry, but when you marry at the age of eighty, it looms closer. We hope for ten good years together.

We gave been showered with so much love and blessing from our friends, our spiritual communities, our families.DSC_7904 Some who have been too long alone and lonely told us that seeing us find each other so late in life gave them hope. It is never too late.

And that is true. It is never too late to find love. Perhaps it is not romantic love, but Love is always there.

The Spirit Dances

All creation dances. The stars turn in their vast patterns, and on Earth all creatures move in their own inimitable ways. Trees grow in a slow, slow dance shaping the intricate architecture of their branches. Grass bends in the wind. Flowers open their hearts to the sun. Water shapes itself with liquid beauty into stream, lake, ocean wave.

The creatures dance.images The snake slithers sinuously. Dolphin leap and spin. Cats of all sizes stalk with elegant grace. Birds soar on the wind. Under water, fish flick their tails and ripple in harmony with their world.

All, in their dance, give back praise to the Love that creates and enfolds them.

From our earliest beginnings, we humans have also danced. Before words there was gesture. Throughout human history, in almost all cultures, dance has been the language of celebration and prayer. It is true, some religions prohibited dancing,  indeed declared it was a sin, but that did not stop most of humanity from dancing. images-2

When I was a little girl, I danced to the music my parents played on the big victrola in the corner of our living room. Later I enjoyed small-town ballet, tap, and acrobatic classes; but it wasn’t until I was fifteen and met Barbara Mettler that I first felt dance as connection to Spirit. Barbara insisted that dance was a human birthright, that everyone should dance. She taught an improvisational, creative approach that was available to people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and abilities. Under her guidance my heart opened, my kinesthetic sense flowered, and I felt for the first time a quality of ecstasy that has lured me all my life.

Now, looking back, I realize that dance has always been my deepest way of praying. Coming to that understanding has been a long journey through many forms:

Leading a liturgical dance choir under the guidance of Howard Thurman, dean of the chapel at Boston University, when I was a student there in the 50’s.

Yoga. The deep dance of moving from one posture to the next, the song of the breath, each pose a mudra connecting to a different aspect of the Divine.

Sufi dancing. Whirling, meeting others in the circle, touching hearts. God is Love, Lover, and Beloved.

Ceremonial dance. Praying with the Earth, the trees, the sky, through all the cycles of the day and night, the cycles of the year. The center pole the mediator between Heaven and Earth.

Continuum. Blending with the rippling flow of breath, sound, and the movement in all Creation. Boundaries dissolving.

Most recently Subud. The discipline of surrender. Being guided by Spirit to move and to sound.

Some forms of dance/prayer take long years of training and discipline. Years ago, a troupe of whirling dervishes came to Boulder to teach and perform. I sat high on the bleachers in the gym where they danced, looking down on the perfect flow of the patterns of whirling bodies. The beauty of it, the sense of centeredness and peace, was unforgettable.

But one does not have to take on a difficult physical discipline to dance one’s prayer. We can all lift our arms, bow our heads. Spirit connects to the physical world through vibration. Vibration is movement. The simplest movement, when it comes from the heart, can connect to Spirit. The tree, the snake, and the dolphin know.

It is a paradox, that my body, the densest form of my being, can be imbued with Spirit. The whole concept of Spirit is turned inside out. It is not only an elusive floating thing out there, but here in my body, making every cell shine, as I dance my love back to Love.

My wish for you: may Spirit dance in you.

One Spirit

Imagine one living Spirit eternally creating, sustaining, and enfolding the whole universe, from the most distant star to the tiniest grain of sand on Planet Earth. Imagine that all beings, animate and inanimate, all creatures—insects, birds, fish, mammals, and humans—are part of this One Spirit, surrounded by it, imbued with it. Imagine that the essence of this Spirit is Love.

What happens when we acknowledge this Oneness, this Love, as being our source?

In 1972, I took a three-month-long, spiritual training in San Francisco. One afternoon, our teacher sent us out to walk the streets of the city. We were directed to look deeply at each person we met as we inwardly chanted the mantra, “I am humanity.” It was an unforgettable experience. Recently, while sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, forty-four years after my experience in San Francisco, I found myself making superficial judgements of the others waiting with me. (No wonder he has knee problems, he’s so overweight. She’d look a lot better with less makeup, etc.) Then the mantra came back to me. “I am humanity.” Such a shift! Judgements evaporated. I felt I could see into the heart of each person and was pierced with the realization of our oneness, washed with Love.

I believe our wars would end if we could only remember that we are one.

Out of this Wholeness, each creature emerges unique, holding its own vibration, its own blend of colors in the infinite rainbow of Oneness. It is a paradox. We are one and also unique.

Cynthia Bourgeault, in her beautiful little book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, uses the metaphor that we are like instruments in an orchestra. She writes, “I am sounded through by the music, and in that sounding, in harmonic resonance with all the other instruments, is revealed both my irreplaceable uniqueness and my inescapable belonging.”

During a difficult time in my life, I was on retreat, longing for death to end my distress. A woman in my support group at the retreat put a poem in my mailbox that called me back:

“You may think the world does not need  you,

But it does.

For you are unique like no one who has ever been before or will come again.

No one can say your piece, speak your voice

Or smile your smile, or shine your light.

No one can take your place, for it is yours alone to fill.images-1

And if you are not there to shine your light,

Who knows how many travelers will lose their way

As they pass by your empty place in the darkness.”

Anonymous

We may not know who depends on our light. We may even forget that we have a light to shine. I have come to believe that we are all called to a life purpose, an ulada as the Elirians call it, and that all our uladas are part of the Oneness, entwined in ways we may not realize.

Showing up to shine our light can sometimes be difficult, but if we can remember our oneness with all that is, we will be nourished and sustained by the Love that is the essence of the One Spirit.

The Path Toward Death

Aging is happening all our lives from the time we are twenty-something, but there comes a time when it accelerates, a point— only we ourselves can say at what chronological age— when we realize we are in the last stage of our lives and we are really going to die.

Such a time came to me about a year ago. I was troubled by free-floating anxiety. When I went to my therapist and we sorted together, I realized that most of my anxiety was about my body. She said, “It’s okay. You’re seventy-nine. You’re in transition toward death.”

A shocking statement, but it was a relief. Of course my body would have to break down, else, short of sudden violence, how could I die?

For the last year I have been living into the understanding that I am in that transition, although it may take ten or even fifteen years. It is a shift in focus. I walk my path in a new way, open to what is unfolding, rather than being fixed on how I think it should be. Because at any moment—

Of course it is true that at any time of life that moment may come. Death always walks beside us. When we are young we really don’t believe that, but as we grow older death comes closer.

My doctor said to me once when I was complaining about fatigue, “Give thanks for what you can do and rest when you’re tired.” Wise words.

Flower Petals On The Path Toward Death

One of the gifts of aging, though it may not seem so, is that we do need to rest, slow down, and these quiet times give us an opportunity to go inward.

Clara writes, after she is old again, “The frequent rests I needed during the day, stretched out on my bed under the silver blanket, gave me time to return to those ineffable processes that had been interrupted for a year—dreaming, musing, sorting the experiences of my life as the old do, laying flower petals on the path toward death.”

For me, there is a sense of urgency now, not about what I must do, but about what I want to become before I die. Time is running out, and, although I’ve lived a rich, full life, I am only now getting down under all my busyness to grasp what is important. Not much time left to learn to love as I have always wanted to love. Not much longer to court the light and clear away the debris that keeps it from shining though me.

It’s true, there are a few things I would like to complete. I’d like to see the novels I’ve started finished and published. It would be good to clear out all those possessions I no longer need that still clutter my closets, basement, and garage. But those things are not important really. If they don’t get done, it doesn’t really matter.

The love and the light are what matters.