Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Coming Full Circle

"Mizen Head, County Cork, Ireland" 

Photo Credit: Licensed under 
Creative Commons Attribution-
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Today begins a new adventure, one that I will no doubt write a great deal about in the future.  Today is the beginning of an inner journey - an epic journey - an odyssey - back to the beginning of "me".

Here are the two poems that began me on this quest.


Grandma was short
 like Mommy
with blue-black hair
cut pixie style
and wild green eyes
that you could never forget
because they twinkled so!
She laughed a lot -
told funny stories
from old Ireland -
Mommy would laugh
as she told me
 the crazy things they did…

Funny, she left this world
long before I came -
 but, Mommy’s words
paint a Grandma
to hold deep
within my heart.

 ©1983 LMRN

O’Riordan – The King’s Poet

When I was half-past six years old,
the world still filled the 5 by 10 space of my room.

Momma said the world outside
was large and ample like her breasts which
comforted me long after I had weaned.

Teacher said the world was strange and frightening.
Heathens lurked behind pagan monuments.

The books from the library filled my dreams with images of
green rolling hills, majestic mountains, desert islands,
exotic and wonderful regalia…hand-woven, beaded, embroidered.

Inhabitants of the world looked at me through the flat pages.
Their smiles, or lack of them, shining from eyes that knew only
the defined space of their existence.

How I longed to find my way back to the roots that,
Transplanted, grew in this space, now.

While peeling potatoes, Momma told me
of Nana O’Riordan’s home in Ireland…
The lush, green hills like the velvet on the rolled arms of the sofa.
The fight to stay free…Lives lost in battles over what?
A language, almost lost, that sounded like a lullaby,
half remembered…
The hard times…famine…

Her tears fell freely, mixing with the broth.

I finished peeling my piece of life, vowing at half-past six
to return to the land that the “king’s poet” left…
vowing to uphold the family’s gift of word…
vowing to give back what had been taken away,
when the potatoes rotted like a cancer in the green fields…
vowing to share the gift of words with all those who could read
or hear or hold a potato in their hands and still feel the life beating within.

At half-past six years old, I stood at the threshold of my 5 by10 life,
opened the windows of hope, looked out into the field of dreams,
knowing that I would create the words to heal the scars left
when Nana fled her home.

The words I would use would be balm to Momma’s soul,
They would bring her peace.
She would see the “King’s Poet” come alive…
In me.

Linda Rhinehart Neas © 2004


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mindful Prayer and Speech

Long ago, I learned to listen and reflect on the words I said.  At the time, my teacher was speaking about saying prayer mindfully, instead of rattling off words in an unconscious stream.  This was a lesson that stayed with me through the years, not only for prayer, but also for speech, in general.  When we are mindful of the words we are using, then we are more capable of saying exactly what we mean.

To illustrate, let us look at the words to the Serenity Prayer written by the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. An acquaintance once mentioned that they loved this prayer.  I asked why.  They were unable to articulate what it was about the prayer that resonated with them.  Many people know this prayer by heart; however, they have never reflected on the exact meaning of the words.

The prayer is:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egidio Forcel...Image via Wikipedia
First, this is a petition to the Almighty.  We are asking for help, but not just any type of help.  We are asking specifically for serenity.  

Webster tells us that "serenity" comes from the Latin word 'serenitas' meaning, "...a state or quality of being calm, tranquil or peaceful."  We, therefore, are asking for peace.

As we continue the prayer, we note that there are three sub-petitions, if you will, that go along with the prayer for serenity.  First, we want to be able to accept the things we cannot change.  This is not an easy achievement. Especially since,  society expects us to be in control.
Acceptance is a practiced discipline. As in most things, the more you practice the better you get. The more we accept the unchangeable, the easier it is to let go of those situations.

Second, we ask for courage to change what we can.  Don't say these words lightly!  In saying this part of the prayer, you are making a commitment to DO something.  You are saying that when things get nuts or unbalanced, and you can change them, you will.  This takes courage, which is what we need to face adversity, pain, and difficulty without fear. 

Finally, we ask in this prayer to be able to tell the difference between what we can change and what we cannot. Discernment is another practiced discipline.  Few, if any, have been born with the ability to discern.  Most of us learn this through trial and error.  We try something. Oops! It doesn't work, so we try something different.  Eventually, when faced with decisions, we are able to take what we have learned both through experience and through accumulated knowledge and figure out the best course of action.

Prayer Flags over Meditation Pond
Peace Pagoda - Leverett, MA

By being mindful of our prayers, no matter how rote they have become,  no matter what path of faith we follow, we begin the practice of being mindful in our speech. As with any contemplative practice, being mindful grows with the practice until, we need not think about being mindful, we simply are.