Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on June 4, 2018

"Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past."
— Richard Rohr

I was recently approached by a young mother who told me that she was having trouble with forgiveness. I invited her to share more. As her eyes filled with unshed tears, she told me of a painful time in her recent past. She spoke of a family friend's molestation of her young daughter, of the trial, of her daughter having to testify — every mother's nightmare! The man is serving time, but her daughter is forever scarred, and the mother cannot forgive. Who can blame her? Should she forgive a monster?

Most of us do not face anything like this horrific crime in our lives, but still, we have our issues.

Forgiveness may, indeed, be the most challenging work of our spiritual lives ...

Posted by Jay McDaniel on May 14, 2018

I'm recommending that everyone in Congress take a course in "religious and spiritual literacy." But why stop there?

Wouldn't it be nice if people all over the world were religiously literate: that is, if they had a basic understanding of the world's many religions? Maybe even all seventeen of them, which is the number of religions presented by the Harvard Pluralism Project. What to know? Not just the ideas and practices, but also the contributions the religions have made to society and an appreciation for the moral exemplars they offer the world. Religious literacy should be required of all government officials, all clergy, all college graduates. Religious literacy is as important as math and science.

Spiritual Moods and Aspirations

But even religious literacy doesn’t really go far enough. It would also be nice if people around the world were spiritually literate …

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on April 26, 2018

Faith rarely comes to us whole; mostly it comes in pieces, sometimes in tiny fragments, especially when life feels broken. Sometimes faith is lost altogether in the breaking. When children are massacred in their schools, where is faith in such a shattered place as this?

Process theologians believe that we are not alone in the shattering; it is the divine experience, too. For when children are murdered in their school, part of God's own self is shattered in a painful cosmic groan that echoes across the universe. Yes, we process thinkers believe that God is in the shattering, or as Alfred North Whitehead says, God is "the great companion — the fellow sufferer, who understands."

Writing from prison in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on March 14, 2018

My mother died. Those three words are hard to write, let alone process. For me, the finality of never hearing my mother’s voice again or having the chance to talk over old issues or discover something new about her childhood — these possibilities are all swallowed up in a black hole of mystery that is beyond me now. Game’s up. No more chances. It feels kind of brutal and unfair.

But she was elderly and ready to go and died peacefully in the night, the way we all wish to go. I did not anticipate any earth-shaking emotions. Oh, how wrong I was! How was I to know that a whole plethora of feelings would suddenly rise up like a chaotic music video filled with intense images and colors and rhythms, a kind of hodgepodge of noisy regrets and bittersweet memories and intense sadness and forgotten angers and irrational bouts of guilt?

I would prefer to turn off the whole grief experience ...

Posted by Jay McDaniel on March 5, 2018

I'm the kid who ran away with the circus. Now I’m watering elephants. But I sometimes lie awake in the sawdust, dreaming I’m in a suit of light. Late at night in the empty big top I’m all alone on the high wire. Look he’s working without a net this time. He’s a real death-defier.

—Lyrics from The Kid

I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —

— Emily Dickinson

Those of us influenced by Buddhism ...

Posted by Jay McDaniel on February 21, 2018

“I put the flowers that Linda's family sent at the nurse's station. Before Linda died, I had come to talk with her, her husband, and their two adult sons. I did that every Saturday for three months. We were always in the same small, sterile room. We never talked about cancer. ... The card attached to the bouquet was from Linda's family was in a yellow envelope. The short inscription read: You brought us sunshine.”

The lines above won’t make sense unless you watch this video:

I hope you will. It is created by a nurse and physician, Sadie Hutson, who tells the story of taking care of her mother, Joy, who had breast cancer and who died at age forty. Sadie’s decision to become a nurse was inspired by her mother.

It is not always easy to be the nurses we are called to be ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on February 12, 2018

“From wonder into wonder, existence opens.”
—Lao Tzu

I dreaded turning sixty. For months before my birthday, I imagined a fire-breathing dragon lurking around the corner, waiting to singe off my eyebrows at the entry way into the inexorable downhill slide into that last third of life—a journey studded with taunts and smirks of little red demons holding up images of medicine bottles, hearing aids, cataracts, wrinkled skin, forgetfulness, and worst of all, funeral-after-funeral of friends and family. It seemed all too much. And so, I took my lamentations to the park and walked along a sunny, tree-lined path, feeling that perhaps the old trees could offer some comfort or advice. After all, they were aged, too, and they didn’t seem to mind.

Ambling among the trees, my mind turned to one of my favorite fictional characters, Mrs. Fisher. Mrs. Fisher is the lonely English dowager who dignifies the pages of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel Enchanted April. It's set in the heady 1920s, when youthful excesses tried to drown out the brutal detritus of grief left behind by the Great War. Being old was not in fashion. But here is Mrs. Fisher, a prideful, stiff, and self-enclosed older woman, who pines after friends long gone and laments her own feelings of "deadness" inside. Yet, she is strangely stuck in this feeling. She reluctantly agrees to join two younger women for a sunny Spring retreat in Italy. There, in the presence of new friends and climbing wisteria and budding trees, her soul begins to grow disturbingly restless. While walking alone along a tree-lined path with her old wooden cane, she finally gives in to the notion that something odd is happening inside her. In fact, much to her chagrin, the old woman felt “a curious sensation, which worried her, of rising sap. . ."

Von Arnim describes Mrs. Fisher's alarm: ...

Posted by Jay McDaniel on February 1, 2018

You can hear your inner banjo by listening to Rhiannon Giddens sing “Julie,” which she wrote. Or at least you can hear her inner banjo, and then find your own. That’s our calling in life. We were made in the image of the divine Banjo and our calling is to grow into its likeness.

Your inner banjo is that side of you, deep down, that is both your true self and the beckoning of God within you. It is who God knows you to be, even if you don't always live up to it or even if you've lost touch with it.

If you are really depressed, or really angry ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on January 16, 2018

Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends, one hears the wind outside, autumn leaves rustle and take flight, the cat sleeps in a warm pool of light. And, with each swallow, time is sublimed.

― Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

For five years I lived entirely in the warm equatorial sun of coastal Ecuador, a constant summer, absent of seasons, of winter, of falling leaves and snow encrusted trees. It was lovely and summery and succulent to the skin. But my tea was unhappy. Iced tea was popular, yes, but tea gets tired of being pummeled by hulking, utilitarian ice cubes and guzzled down in sweaty glasses that leave rings on the table. Tea longs for winter. In cold weather, tea feels happy inside delicate china cups, sipped and savored, as if the meaning of its life is fulfilled; for it knows that it is warm and comforting, a simple balm of tranquility to the drinker’s otherwise fretful day.

I returned to North America . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on January 8, 2018

The Water God

Last night I saw The Shape of Water written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and this morning I read Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s review of the marvelous film. The Brussats offer numerous themes to reflect upon: dancing, hope, monstrosity, torture, evil, love, and the role of water in human life, as made clear in the title. In their words: “Finally, there is the film’s title. In many spiritual traditions, water is a metaphor for the omnipresence of the divine. In Mathnawi II: 1020-1, Rumi seems to be describing Elisa’s choice:

“Know that the outward form passes away
But the world of reality remains forever.
How long will you play at loving the shape of the jug?
Leave the jug; go, seek the water!”

Those of us in the process tradition . . .


About This Blog

Welcome to Process Musings for the spiritually curious, the creative, and the open-hearted. We, Jay McDaniel and Patricia Adams Farmer, are two bloggers from the world of process thought, inspired by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. This multi-faith blog features articles, essays, stories, videos, and poetry which invite you to discover fresh possibilities for wholeness, creativity, and joy. Read more.