Archive from June, 2013
Jun 30, 2013 - Music, New Cosmology, Resources    No Comments

Day 12: Praises for the World

Dear Pope Francis,

Summer has finally come in my part of the world. We’re having a very warm Saturday — with the promise of more warmth to come. The various weather authorities are even predicting a heat wave.

It’s been an interesting transition, given that we’ve been rain, cold and gloomy for the past couple of weeks and it has not been very summer-like around here. It’s a rather quick transition. This, coupled with other weird weather news we’ve had of late, makes you wonder if things are actually shifting in terms of our weather patterns. I kind of think they are.

Which, to my mind, makes an engagement in the world around us all that much more important. If things are going to get unpredictable in terms of weather, the only way we’ll cope is by becoming meteorological experts ourselves. We need to re-learn the signs all around us, as they’re new signs.

One of my favorite singers is Jennifer Berezan. This is one of her most well-known works, “Praises for the World.” The YouTube clip doesn’t do the beauty of the song justice, so I’d suggest you go to her website and buy a copy of the CD. It’s money well spent.

I’m always taken by the lyrics “The holiest words I’ve ever read or thought or sung or prayed, were praises for the world.”

Yours friend,

Kevin

Jun 28, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 11: Rest

Dear Pope Francis,

I love the poetry of David Whyte. I have dogeared the life out of several of his books. I also love that he has recorded many of his lectures. If it were possible to wear a groove in an MP3 file, all of my David Whyte audiobooks would be unplayable.

On one of these recordings, “The Poetry of Self-Compassion,” Whyte talks about a time in his life when he was completely burned out. One night he met up with David Steindl-Rast and asked him to talk to him about exhaustion. Steindle-Rast replied that the opposite of exhaustion is not rest; rather, it is wholeheartedness.

I’ve been through burnout. In fact, I was dealing with burnout when I first listened to this David Whyte lecture. And it really resonated with me. I began to focus not just on resting my body and mind, but also what I could be wholehearted about.

This blog is the result of that. Having been touched by the New Cosmology, eco-spirituality, and the implications of the Universe Story, I feel a deep need to spread awareness. Through this blog I hope to provide a conduit for information about the New Cosmology to a broader audience. It’s my bit of what Thomas Berry would call the Great Work.

So, this daily discipline of putting a few of my scratchings out in the world is one way I can stay wholehearted.

I’ll leave you with some of David Whyte’s poetry.

Loaves and Fishes

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

  — David Whyte
      from The House of Belonging
     ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Have a blessed day, Pope Francis.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jun 27, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 10: Why it would be nice if Pope Francis gave Cardinal Dolan a call

Dear Pope Francis,

So, I don’t mean to get all political in this blog, but sometimes it’s required.

As you probably know, the U.S. Supreme Court made a couple of long-time-coming decisions yesterday, striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and also invalidating California’s Proposition 8.

And then Cardinal Dolan and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went all emo about it.

OK. I can appreciate that Cardinal Dolan and his colleagues have some issues with marriage equality. I don’t agree, but that’s also my right. But, a “tragic” day for marriage and a risk for the nation? Really? Where was Bishop Dolan when Brittany Spears got married for 55 hours? Where is Bishop Dolan on the near-daily degradation of “straight” marriage? Why are the Knights of Columbus not spending money battling that? Anyone? Anyone?

What I think Cardinal Dolan and the USCCB don’t understand is that they don’t have to conduct same-sex marriages in their churches. It would be nice if they did. Really nice. And just. But nobody is forcing them.

Also, I wonder if they have looked north lately to us in Canada. We’ve had marriage equality for more than a decade now. Is the country in peril? No. Is marriage under threat? No.

If you’re going to decry something, at least base it on some kind of evidence. This hate-based hyperbole is just not respectful.

I know you have been mainly silent on the issue, Pope Francis, but you seem to be a person of reason, tact and respect. Could you give Cardinal Dolan a call and let him know his tactics aren’t helping anyone? All he’s doing is widening the trench, and hurting a lot of people in the process. Thanks.

Phew. Ok. I need some Peter Mayer after that.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jun 26, 2013 - Mindfulness    No Comments

Day 9: The internal monologue when I’m sick

Dear Pope Francis,

Hope you are doing well. Truth is, I’m not. I think all that overwhelm I wrote about yesterday led to my coming down with, well, the plague. OK. Not quite that bad, but it sure feels like it.

When you’re sick, Pope Francis, do you go through an entire inner monologue about why you’re sick, why you can’t be sick, why you should just tough it out and get on with your day? Well, I do, and it often makes being sick even worse.

I tried to capture this in the following poem. It might need some edits, but I think it gives a good sense of what goes on between my mind, body and spirit when I’m sick and worry about what people will think of me for being sick.

 

When I’m Sick

by Kevin Aschenbrenner

On days like this
when I’m sick as sick can be
I don’t want to go into work.
But my mind says yes, we must
And my body says, no, we can’t.
Yes, we must insists my mind
No, we just can’t, pleads my body

As I lie in bed, fatigued and shining like spilled olive oil on a pale wood floor
my spirit stirs, coughs politely and calmly asks
what are we fighting for?

Dear mind, it says, what’s behind all this?
Body clearly can’t
make it to the bedroom floor
let alone to the shower, the closet, the door, downstairs, the kitchen, the garage, the car, the highway, traffic, the desk, 9, 10 hours at the desk, the car, traffic, garage, upstairs, and to bed again
You know that. You’ve got your electro magnetic finger on the pulse of the body. You are the body.

Well, no, says the mind. That would be the brain. I’m the mind.

Sigh, says spirit. Here we go again.
When will you remember that body, brain and mind are one, you silly goose.
What goes on in you, mind, goes on in the body.
What you do, mind, is reflected in the body.
And what’s good for the body, right now, is to stay home from work, rest,
and if you want,
read one of those fantasy novels you like.

Yes, says mind, I know that.
But when I think about not going into work today,
I just get riled up.
(Oh, and don’t think I didn’t catch that comment about my fantasy novels. I’ve got memory on my side, in case you’d forgotten.)
I start thinking about letting people down,
About Brian from accounting who, just last week, came in with walking pneumonia and a mask to finish the quarterly taxes,
And Mary from IT who broke her leg on the weekend, but was back on Monday, on crutches, making her rounds to fix broken computers
And what about Sid, who is the first in each day, the last out, and travels more and has more meetings than any of us put together? He’s a zombie most days, but he’s there!
All these people push themselves, for work. That makes them good people. Good company people.

OK, says spirit. Anything else?

Well, says mind, then I worry that taking one day will make me fall behind, that my clients will get upset, that they’ll all leave me
And then all of us, body, mind and spirit, will be left homeless. No food. Nothing to keep us all together.

From just one sick day, eh? Wow, says spirit, we are very important and our actions have such profound consequences.

Yes! Yes! We are! They do! I mean, just one sick day could ruin, well, everything!

So, says spirit, summing up, if you let body stay home sick you risk not being a good company person, plus complete destitution. Am I getting this right?

Yes, says mind. See? See? This is why I freak out.

Oh…says mind…one more thing.

Yes? says spirit.

Well…what will people think of us, especially me, if I don’t make body go into work. We’ll be seen as weak. People will think we’re not pulling our weight. People will start to think we’re expendable. That they could get someone better, more resilient, robust. Who wouldn’t get sick, or who would work while sick.

Body says, could you keep it down? I’m trying to rest here. All this negative energy isn’t helping me heal!

Aha, says spirit. Did you see that, mind? What you do affects the body.

Now, says spirit, let me ask a few things.

Does everyone admire Sid for working himself to death, or only management?

Well, says mind, maybe only management. The rest of us think he’s nuts, or at least cruising for a massive coronary by 35.

OK, says spirit. And Mary, did most people think she was smart to come in only a day after breaking her leg?

Well, no, says mind. We thought she might be risking further damage.

Alright, says spirit. And did people really, really love it when Brian spent the day wheezing and coughing all around the office?

Actually, says mind, we all worried we’d catch it.

So, says spirit, these may be good company people, but they’re falling down a bit on taking care of themselves — and even others?

Yes, says mind, I think so.

And, final question, says spirit. At the end of the day, would you rather we look good in front of people who may not care at all about us, or would you rather take care of body so we can greet the challenges of tomorrow, and thereafter in good health.

Mind sighs, and says, the latter, I guess. But..

No buts, says spirit. Buts get you into trouble.

Now before we let body get some rest, let’s meditate a bit.

Oh, no, says mind, I hate meditating. I’ve got nothing to do!

Yes. That’s the point, says spirit. That’s the point.

 

Your sneezy, feverish, nauseous friend,

Kevin

Jun 26, 2013 - Music, Resources    No Comments

Day 8: What to do when you hit overwhelm

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s been a really busy couple of days. I’ve had a lot going on. Too much, perhaps. On days like this I sometimes hit a point of overwhelm, where I just can’t handle one more bit of new information or talk to one more person.

If I’ve been paying attention to myself and the warning signs, maybe I’ve headed things off at the pass. But sometimes a little overwhelm happens. And then it’s only a matter of stopping, refocusing and getting myself back on track.

For me, this means tuning out the world for a bit and focusing my mind. I guess you could call it meditation, but I’m not always so formal. Posture? Ummm. Well, sometimes I use a chair. But, don’t tell anyone, sometimes I lie down. Shhhh…

More often than not, I put some music on. One of my favorites is Hymn of the Universe.

Hope you enjoy.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jun 24, 2013 - Music, Resources    No Comments

Day 7: Some music for your Monday, Pope Francis

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s Monday, so I won’t barrage you with anything too heavy today. If you’re like me, you need to ease yourself into the week and Monday’s are not for anything too complicated.

I saw this story about your snub of that gala concert. Have to say, it made me chuckle. You are sure confusing the Curia. Keep it up.

Since you missed that music on Saturday, thought that I would provide you with something to watch and listen to today. It’s by Symphony of Science and is called “We are all connected.”

Hope you enjoy.

Your friend,

Kevin

Day 5: The Dear Pope Francis book club!

Dear Pope Francis,

Apologies for the late post today. Was a busy Saturday of running errands and enjoying the second day of summer. Even managed to work in a nap and some reading.

Speaking of reading, I’d like to start a book club. There are some books I’ve read that I’d like to re-read, and others that I want to read for the first time. It’s always good to have someone to talk to about a good book, so I thought you and I could be our own book club.

Don’t worry. You won’t have to speed read to make a tight deadline and there won’t be any pop quizzes. We’ll spend a lot of time on each book. In fact, you might want to use the book as part of your daily lectio divina, if that resonates with you. I like to change it up a bit myself and branch out from Scripture occasionally.

The first book is probably the best grounding in the New Cosmology that you could get. It’s The Universe Story by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. Much of what I wrote about in this post came from that book. It’s one of my favorites and I’m happy to give it another read. It’s widely available, and that link will take you to an Amazon page where you can purchase it. (Note that it’s an affiliate link, and I’ll get a little bit of money if you buy it through there. Will help keep us in vigil candles and incense around here for awhile.)

Anyway, that’s all for today. I look forward to discussing The Universe Story with you.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jun 21, 2013 - The Work of the Divine    No Comments

Day 4: What to do when someone is in pain

Dear Pope Francis,

I’m not sure what was happening on this week, but several of my friends were going through some painful and difficult stuff. One friend had to put his loyal and much-loved dog down. Another friend assumed legal responsibility for a relative who has lost the capacity to manage his own affairs. Still another friend had some difficult times with her young adult son.

And people in the Canadian province of Alberta are coping with severe flooding today, with many out of their homes and businesses.

Watching other people go through difficult times can be hard. You want to dive in and help and do whatever you can to make things better. Often, though, that’s kind of beyond your control. It’s something I personally struggle with and I wrote this poem awhile back while going through my own painful experiences. They revealed to me what can help the most in such situations.

Small Things

By Kevin Aschenbrenner

This. This is what you can do.
In the face of another’s pain.

Small things.

Bring flowers. Or wine.

Or both.

Make pots of tea that go cold.

Talk about the pain.

Talk about anything but.

Hug.

If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.

If you are particular about the pain, it’s easier to bear.

Small things.

The bigger someone’s pain, the more important the small things.

Look them in the eye.

See them.

Show up.

Be present.

That’s small stuff that’s not-so-small stuff.

This. This is what you can do.
In the face of another’s pain.

Through the small things, you anchor them.
You stand behind them, gently holding their belt loops
While they lean into the pain,
So they can go through it,
But not get lost.

It’s the small things that tether us to life, that bring us back.

And we are all keepers of the small things.

Which is good to know, when we don’t know what to do
to comfort another’s sorrow.

Just remember the small things.

I think sometimes that we believe we have to make grand gestures to help someone who is in pain. What I now realize is that it’s the small things that can often help the most. As author Anne Lamott would say, just show up, be present, and God will let you know what to do. And, most often, the Divine guides us to the small things.

That’s all for today.

Your friend,

Kevin

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