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. So much of life is a salvage operation, making the best of circumstances we wish were otherwise. Sadie understood this:

When I was eleven a homecare nurse brought supplies to our house and showed me how to clean and flush my mom's port, and change the dressing. I held my breath when I pulled the needle out or pushed the needle in.”

And so it is with us, whatever situations we face ...

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:

"It was such an absurd sensation at her age. Yet oftener and oftener, and every day more and more, did Mrs. Fisher have a ridiculous feeling as if she were presently going to burgeon. Sternly she tried to frown the unseemly sensation down. Burgeon, indeed. She had heard of dried staffs, pieces of mere dead wood, suddenly putting forth fresh leaves, but only in legend. She was not in legend. She knew perfectly what was due to herself. Dignity demanded that she should have nothing to do with fresh leaves at her age; and yet there it was — the feeling that presently, that at any moment now, she might crop out all green."

Thankfully, despite her struggle ...

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 . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on December 19, 2017

During Advent, we wait for Christmas in the glow of burning candles: flames that stretch up into the darkness, as if in passionate plea. Our spirits burn, too, for we long for fresh manifestations of Christmas — tiny bursts of hope, swaddled in vulnerability and gentleness. Our waiting becomes almost an ache, a prayerful yearning for goodness and compassion to be reborn into our world of injustice, division, and fear.

We wait like Mary in her pregnancy . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on December 11, 2017

Sometimes when people talk to us, we aren’t really listening. We may hear them speak and look them in the eye. We may nod our heads in encouragement. But inwardly we are distracted by our private concerns and want to turn the conversation in our own direction. Before they complete their sentences, we are busy composing our own responses.

And sometimes, of course, they are doing exactly the same thing. We may be sharing ideas and feelings that are very important to us; we may want to be heard and taken seriously. But inwardly they are distracted by their own private agendas. They, too, are composing their responses to our sentences before we have finished uttering them. An observer might say that the two of us are having a conversation, but in fact we are having two monologues simultaneously. Two people are talking, but no one is listening.

In order for genuine communication to occur . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on November 28, 2017

“Enthusiasm means ‘one with the energy of God.’ It derives from root words pointing to be inspired and possessed by the Divine. There is something awesome about this spiritual quality. They are vibrantly alive.”

— Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy

Vibrantly Alive!

Until I encountered the concept of enthusiasm through the eyes of Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, I associated this lovable, five-syllable word only with youthful passion or extroverted salesclerks. But much to my delight, through the pages of Spiritual Literacy, I discovered this word is imbued with the sacred, offering spiritual pilgrims of all stripes a fresh alternative to cynicism, lethargy, and apathy.

As an experiment . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on November 21, 2017

We believe that democracy as a way of life can be strengthened and deepened through spiritual practices — both those traditionally considered to be "inner work" and those that require active engagement with our neighbors and communities.

— Spirituality and Practice: The Practicing Democracy Project

I’m listening to John Coltrane’s "Love Supreme" as I write this. It makes me think of St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco. I live in Arkansas, but I think I am a member of the church, at least in spirit. I like the whole idea that people might sing along, clap, and dance to Coltrane’s "Love Supreme" on Sunday mornings, understanding it as a spiritual practice in its own right. As they dance they are putting on the mind of Coltrane and entering into Coltrane-consciousness; and many think of it as a kind of Christ-consciousness: open, free, celebratory, loving. Makes sense to me. I think Christ can be in Coltrane and Coltrane in Christ. Isn’t everything interconnected?

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 2:5

But let’s be honest. . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on November 14, 2017

"It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

— David Steindl-Rast

Say Thank You to a Tree

Here in the Midwest, mid-November is a season of raucous beauty in the woods and parks. Aromas of cinnamon and apples fill our homes in anticipation of Thanksgiving, and dinner menus are already getting underway.

This morning, I walked in a nearby botanical garden filled with stunning maples and oaks, all dressed up in variegated hues of red, yellow, green, and orange — colors that seem to melt into one another, softening the landscape with something close to tenderness. Their delicate beauty, translucent and fiery against the cold November sky, brought me close to tears. All I could do was thank the trees: Thank you for your beauty, your mystery, your willingness to let go and change with the seasons, and for your graceful dignity as you bow towards winter. Thank you, too, for your luminous inner light that suggests the joyful presence of your creator. Thank you for sharing the earth with me.

A sense of joy flooded me ...

RSS

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.