Spiritual Practice: Being a Light

Lantern-Light-Festival

 

I have a dear friend who is often housebound by one of those horrible autoimmune diseases. She told me that once in desperation, she cried out to God, “What can I do for you, I can’t even leave the house?” God answered, “Be a sunflower.” The image of being a sunflower, of turning your face toward the light of God is beautiful and doable. She thought, I can do that!

Poet Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Buddha’s Last Instruction, suggests the Buddha’s last words were, “Make of yourself a light.” Mary Oliver’s poem is about the sun coming up and filling the land with light. In one stanza she writes,

“And then I feel the sun itself

 as it blazes over the hills,

like a million flowers on fire –

clearly I’m not needed,

yet I feel myself turning

into something of inexplicable value.

 

sunrise

 

The light does this to us. It shines on us, in us, hanging and healing us, so that, as the Buddha says, we can be a light to others.

John Donohue, a beautiful writer, and prayer of the Celtic tradition of Christianity wrote,

“May the light of your soul guide you. May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart…May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who you work with and to those who see and receive your work.”

When Quakers pray they say, “I’ll hold you in the Light.” I think that is beautiful.

sunflower

It seems clear to me that our job is to be a sunflower, turning our face to the light of God’s love. As God’s love fills us, it guides us, blesses our work with love and warmth. Then, it does as the Buddha suggests, it makes a light of love and healing to a hurting world.

How have you experienced the light? How does light flow through you to others?

 

Photo credit: Sunflower Lantern FestivalSunrise  

Spiritual Practice: Looking for God’s Light

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All of the world’s major religions share the idea of divine light. In a Christian worldview, the Bible is full of references to light. Jesus said, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Matthew 5:16 The Message

The founder of the Quakers, George Fox spoke of, “reliance on the inward light” and how everyone should listen for the still small voice of God within them1.

St. Teresa of Avila, speaks of the soul as a crystal castle in which God dwells. It is described as, “In the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, the greatest splendour, illuminating and beautifying them all.”2

Thomas Merton said, “We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through all the time…in people and things and nature and events.”3

The problem is, we forget to look for this divine light in ourselves and in others. We get so busy that we forget to stop “doing” and start “being.” Finding the balance between those two ideas is the idea of living with a contemplative orientation and a life of compassionate action.

Thankfully our western culture is once again waking up to this need, as John Phillip Newell writes, “Regardless of our particular vocation, age, stage of life, marital status, and family commitments, we are invited to find balance — between being and doing, between inner awareness and outward engagement – that will lead to a fuller fruiting of our lives and relationships.”4

Where do we begin to regain our balance? This blog is committed to easily accessible spiritual practices to help with just that. Find one that speaks to you and start there. I often remind myself of the inner light on my way to work by praying “God that I will have your eyes today. That I will walk in your light and look for that of you in the others I meet today.” This gets my eyes off myself and prepares me to walk in peace and unity with others. Can you imagine the change in the world if we could stay in that orientation?

light 2

I’ll leave you with a meditation by John O’Donohue that someone shared with me yesterday. The first line alone is worthy of contemplation.

Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you from all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

Let me know how you keep the balance of doing and being in your busy life.

Photo Credit, Top light, Bottom light

  1. Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and Policy. ABC-CLIO. 2004. (pg. 615) 
  2. Interior Castle, St. Theresa of Avila (pg. 2)
  3. Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, (pg. 84)
  4. John Phillip Newell, The Rebirthing of God, Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings. (60)
  5. John O’Donohue (author of To Bless the Space Between Us)


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