Seeking the Divine Through Words

I have been in love with words since I was a little girl who faithfully watched that old classic television show, The Waltons.  Each episode ended with John-Boy sitting at the desk writing late into the night – trying to make sense of the day’s events and somehow trying to bring meaning to it all with words.  As the lights in the house diminished one by one, and only the Divine was left awake, his words willed a better day for the morrow.

I have loved words all my life.  The way they feel when I draw them in cursive with a fountain pen on a clean, creamy sheet of paper.  The way the appear on the computer screen – effortlessly materializing from simple key strokes into something which can be shared later in black and white.  Or be destroyed by a simple touch of the delete button that render those words mute, null and void forever.

I love the way they jump up  from pages of books – so excited when they are opened to be read.  And when the light of the Kindle parts some of the darkness on a sleepy night and words help rock me gently back to sleep.

I love the way they are crafted hopefully on white sandy beaches with the side of a broken shell broadcasting that Billy loves Carol – bragging with mock self assurance that yet is fearful the great ocean waves will drown those words literally in its frothy mouth and send them to a watery end.

I have loved words as far back as I can remember.  Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, I spent hours trying to emulate Daddy’s beautiful handwriting. Extracting a small twig from one of the many white pines around our house, I would carefully write his name in the sandy soil over and over again – working hard to achieve his beautiful artistry.  J-A-M-E-S.  James with a curly looped “J” at the top and bottom and ending with an “S” with that same loop at the top.  His letters were slanted just so and commanded an impeccable penmanship – that sadly passed years later when Parkinson’s Disease shook his sweet hand.

I love the way words paint the world.  The way they educate, incite, describe, emote, inspire, motivate, provoke and challenge our lives.  The way they draw and sustain our days.  The way they call us to action.  The way they hold us like hostages to the next syllable in the great mystery that is our lives.  They way they offer hope that just around the next corner, they will finally, laboriously, get to the point and show us the meaning of our lonely and confusing lives.

Words – the way they string together – the way they make music, make love, deliver song, keep the righteous battle going, celebrate the Spirit, at times crush the Spirit, make the Word whole again and yet, oftentimes, fail in that attempt.

But most of all I love words when the words do  not come from me at all.

When I am typing, laboriously, painstakingly, searching for right expression, and somehow out of nowhere, my fingers cease belonging to me, my mind becomes lucid and without a thought, and incredible words appear through a Power beyond me.  It is like being one with the Divine.

Like in yoga, when we take in a great, long, nourishing breath and then just a bit more and then we hold it – at that very spot where the Divine lives – and then the breath and Spirit tumbles out and we realize that for just a second we were a part of that great Divine.  Not the Divine who is like the whole ocean – but a drop of that Great Ocean where my small voice masquerades as something much greater.  Namaste.

Shades of Gray and Doing the Right Thing

“The Twelve Angry Men” who come together in the play by Regional Rose has always fascinated me in its exploration of right and wrong and how we as humans quite often reach completely different conclusions regarding both of these and the gray that lies somewhere in between.

His famous story binds twelve jurors, a dozen very different men, who must determine the fate of a man accused of capital murder.  As the play unfolds, we witness the unveiling of the experiences, prejudices, personal histories and biases of each of these men and watch as they develop their own determinations and then argue them to the group in an effort to determine the fate of the defendant.  The battle heats up at times and once, or twice, the jurors almost come to physical blows as they witness their own stories in alignment with the case.  In the end, what is the truth? And who really has it?

One day a dear and trusted friend and I discussed the issue of black and white and the gray that lies between.  He brought up this scenario.  “Crissy, consider this.  You are a non-Jew living in Germany just before World World II.  Even though you are not a Jew, you have close Jewish friends and are petrified about the horrible travesty rising against your friends.  So one day, you decide to  hide a beloved family  to keep them safe from harm.  Against the law, you harbor them in your basement.  Then one day, the Gestapo pounds on the door and demands to know if you have Jews in your home.

“Without a thought of the fact that you were reared to always tell the truth and to never lie, you outright and boldly lie.  With a perfectly sincere and straight face, you lie,”‘No. I am not harboring Jews in my house.”

I nodded and considered the scenario while my friend asked, “Did you do the right thing?  You lied.   You did not tell the truth.

“But,” I said, “I saved the lives of my friends.”


In many cases of difficulties between human beings, we do not find black and white but a whole lot of gray.  I am not talking about brutal murder, incest, rape or abject cruelty.  I am talking, however, about all manner of human relations, sometimes that which even ostensibly involves love.

During this Year of Altruism in Greenville, we are discussing some hard issues – including gay and lesbian marriage – race relations – acceptance of all religions and so much more.  If you live here, I encourage you to review the schedule on the site of Year of Altruism in Greenville.  Get into the dialogue.  Our future depends on it.

The Dalai Lama once said, “Whatever we say, let us speak clearly and to the point, in a voice that is calm and pleasant, unaffected by attachment or hatred…If we are able to transform adverse situations into factors of the spiritual path, hindrances will become favorable conditions for spiritual practice.”

Discernment is almost never as easy as it might appear to be.  Think carefully.


In Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful book, Peace Is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, he writes about suchness, saying, “In Buddhism, the word ‘suchness’ is used to mean ‘the essence or particular characteristics of a thing or person, its true nature.'”

I have been thinking about this as I have read this book in relation to yoga teacher training.

Water has suchness.  It is the nature of water to be the vital element that keeps us alive.  Without water to drink, we will die.  Because of that, we welcome it into our homes through numerous taps – some to drink from, some to bathe in, some to cook with.  It is also the nature of water to come down as rain – nourishing our crops, our yards, our feathered and furry friends, making things look shiny and new.  It is also the suchness of water to storm – sometimes terrifyingly so – tsunamis that kills hundreds, hurricanes that obliterate entire neighborhoods and small towns.  It is the suchness of water.

It is the suchness of wood that constructs buildings, dwellings, chuches, temples, yoga studios, businesses.  It provides the enclosures that we humans rely on for safety, warmth and comfort.  It is also the suchness of wood that builds barriers and fences, crosses and sticks that can be used to break bones.  That is the suchness of wood.

Love, too, has so much suchness that the world is made of it.  Love that is deep and strong that uplifts, that carries us to the heights of esctasy, that makes us feel so worthwhile and so vital and so needed by the other.  Love that is celebrated by its very own special holiday, that is the cement of marriages and partnerships and families and significant others.  Love is the suchness of joy.  It is also the suchness that can break our hearts, cause us to let other people down, create groups that let others in or out, cast us in the place of being totally misunderstood, create tears that flow into rivers and sometimes it is the suchness of love to cause hurt, deception, blame, judgement and banishment.  That is the suchness of love.

Yet we welcome it into our hearts daily.  Knowing its suchness is never a given…one way or the other.

As humans, we also have our suchness.  We ourselves of a nature composed of love and joy and, when provoked or misunderstood, we find ourselves acting of a suchness that we will most likely regret when it is all said and done.

Yet we welcome each other into our hearts daily.  Not knowing how it will all turn out in the long run.

The world is made of just this suchness.  There are no promises either way.Image

Blazing Bonfires, Hurricanes and Icy Roads

My January blues were escorted in by frigid temperatures everywhere – even here in the Palmetto State.  In northwestern Virginia where I traveled last week, the cold was exacerbated by freezing rain and winds that registered way below zero in the “feels like” category.  Personally, I feared my lungs would transform into two compact ice chests should I be brave enough to attempt an actual in-breath while out of doors.

All this made for a somber re-entry into real life after an extended holiday in Tupelo, Mississippi and New Orleans.  These days the holidays are different.  First, Daddy’s gone.  Daddy’s gone, did I mention, and family dynamics are just different. It’s hard to believe that for the first 20 something years of my life Christmas never changed.  Off we went to Grandmother Honeycutt’s house with the extended family and all the cousins and then my sister and I woke up with our parents in our warm, little house where we spent the day opening tons and tons of presents and hanging out.  That was a long, long time ago.

It’s one of the things that dear old Norman Rockwell immortalized so well that it makes us sad and morose longing for Christmas’s past.  That old fellow has instigated a lot of depressions and suicides if you ask me.

So this year my sweet husband and I decided it is high time after ten years of no tradition whatsoever that we create a little tradition of our own.  Which means that we will spend the holidays somewhere – first with whatever friends and family we can coordinate our schedules with and secondly, with a little romantic time on our own.

This year we saw a few friends and family before we left Greenville and then on December 22, we struck out on the road to Tupelo where we spent several days having a great family time with Trey’s mother, son and his lovely girlfriend, Ashley.  We laughed, opened presents, shared good meals, had lots of long talks, tried to find Elvis all over town by following his historic tracks through his old hometown, drank some good wine and watched the hours fly by very quickly.

Then the two of us went on to the wonderful city of New Orleans where we moved in close to the French Quarter and resided for a few days at the historic Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria.  (Well, just saying, one should get a few perks for spending three out of four weeks away from home on business.  And fortunately for us, our perk got perked and we landed a luxury, corner suite! Definitely in very high cotton for a few days.)

The hotel was dazzling with thousands of white lights on trees that lined the entire first floor.  Beautiful music, high spirits and incredible service.  Sort of felt that we were a part of the Downton Abbey sort of folk.   We spent hours walking the streets of the French Quarter which was in contrast decorated with lots of red and green and with many an ostentatious old Santa sitting on a porch or inside a shop window.  We sought and found many a hole in the wall eatery that served Po Boys, jumbalaya, muffalettas and shrimp and oysters cooked in all sorts of ways.  The small bar scene was fun, too.  We stopped at several and struck up conversations with the locals and solved many of the world’s great problems.

Definitely a highlight was Christmas Eve on the levee by the Mississippi River where we watched the decades old tradition of lighting bonfires filled with firecrackers to light the way for Papa Noel to travel down the Mississippi River by boat driven by alligators – the traditional way that he makes his trek to see the children of this swampy low country.  Literally miles of bonfires line the levee and it is one terrific sight to see.  Unfortunately, the legend goes a little deeper as in the old South when the plantation owners were celebrating Christmas, a greater opportunity occurred for the slaves to escape.  This helped to ensure they did not get away during festivities – a sad part of our history not to be forgotten and not to be repeated.

New Orleans is still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and it is clear that event is a mile marker and always will be.  We often heard – before Katrina and after Katrina – and we were also awed at the major medical hospital that is being constructed in place of the hospitals that were lost during the storm.

So the blazing bonfires, the effect of the hurricane and the icy roads led us back home again in time for the start of 2014.  The blues will fade away, I hope, before too long.  And time will march on into another year and beyond.  The nostalgia of Christmas’s past has yet another one for the annals. The archives and chronicles of this latest one will join the others and time will move forward – even without the cousins and Daddy and my sister and my mother in eastern North Carolina for all those precious years gone before.

Aude lang sayne.