Monthly Archives: July 2015

Rehearsing for Heaven

Dear Sor Juana,

Spent the weekend singing sessions entitled Rehearsing for Heaven with a horde of other aspirants in four-part harmony with rain providing percussion and the urn bubbling in the corner offering occasional counterpoint.

I had visited a friend in a hospice earlier in the day so thinking about what rehearsing for heaven might look and sound like was in real-time. When my father was dying I was keen to point out to others and myself that this was not a rehearsal and there was no point waiting for the curtains to open (or close) for the next act, but to get up onto that stage and say the words to be said, sing the songs to be sung.   Practising can be a luxury we don’t always have, yet we are constantly being apprenticed to our own disappearance (as David Whyte has so eloquently put it).

Singing in harmony so we hold each other’s voices in the mesh of notes that forms a safety net should one of our singular sounds stray. Maybe heaven is the place where we can all find our voice and where the inclusion of our note makes the song complete? Simple melodies set to the rhythms of heart beat, walking pace and sometimes with an ache, blend magically under the careful and precise instruction of a master craftsman. I am prompted to think about the harmonics I might offer in other parts of life. A surround sound cloud forms and has all the potential to find its way to the sky and when I close my eyes it is possible I have indeed been rehearsing for heaven.

Seems to me everything we do is preparation for the next steps we take – it’s just we don’t always know that at the time. If this weekend’s music is anything to go by, then I hope I am going to be surrounded by more angels, and look to an instructor who can give me a note to follow and help me keep me the tune offered to my part in the great chorus of humanity. The oos and the ahhs and oomphs syncopate and lighten the load giving me a skip and lift in familiar and surprising ways. More singing is definitely on the agenda while I rehearse for heaven.

Soggy Self

Dear Sor Juana,

The rain fell, creating puddles, turning cracks on the pavement into tiny streams, creating a circulatory system connecting me to the heavens as the umbrella didn’t quite keep all the drops off my head. The day before on the same path a gum tree bowed and the tips of its leaves blessed my crown and the menthol eucalyptus filled the air. This day I was getting wet. My bags were wet. My feet were wet. My coat was wet.

Sor Juana have you ever arrived at your destination wet? My soggy self dripping onto the floor and each drip making a withdrawal from my dignity bank. I disrobed the outer layer, dried off and got myself ready to take my place in the room warmed only by the goodwill of others and not the heating.

The swamp of life from which all sogginess may come in a down pour or a sun shower – but it will come and however ready you are with umbrella, coat or waterproof boots – there are days when getting wet is an opportunity to be apprenticed to your disappearance (as discussed by David Whyte).

As I have written before these moments, provide the elements with an opportunity move us through cosmic amniotic fluid and be baptised with grace. To learn to lean on, and into the dishevelment being in the rain brings, is an invitation to bring your whole soggy self to the room.


Dear Sor Juana,

Generosity is beautiful. Sharing what you have in abundance may be easy, and sharing what little you might have perhaps more challenging – in either circumstances the gift, freely given reveals whole-heartedness. I have seen so much generosity this past week and in each case it has flowed from a rich vein of being part of something bigger than the giver or receiver. Going so far beyond charity or courtesy to almost regal magnanimity, these acts of generosity have touched me deeply and I have been blessed as witness to these actions. The gifts have all been priceless, without a price on the market and unable to be purchased. They have been wrapped up love and a demonstration of the commitment of the giver to the receiver. They hold promise and are a sign of harvest. I am caught in the glow of the acts of generosity and through no efforts of my own, get to bask in some of the reflected light. So different to being in the shadow of stinginess and meanness that has a way of dragging you down with it, generosity lifts you up and fills spaces beyond itself.

I have seen generosity with my own eyes; it is good, humble and wise. Meanness though is more like pride in disguise, wanting to mark its territory and transacting relationships with malevolence. I yearn for more generosity in our world, unlocking what we have to share with others and tapping into our humanity, for there is enough for all of us to have a fair share of the bounty of our planet. There is enough love to go around as that astonishing emotion amplifies the more it is given away.

When I see meanness of spirit I am repulsed and want to turn away, yet there are days when I am looking at train wreck, unable to avert my eyes from the meanness and getting dragged down into the mud because of it. I need to look up and look around to see all the generosity in abundance and turn away from the scarcity world view draining the way we live as a nation.

I was excited to learn this week one of the new whizz bang apps designed by young hackers was an app for homeless people and those with a spare room to find each other – a sort of underground Air BnB. I am in wonder and awe of the creativity (given freely as a volunteer) and the joy in other people’s willingness to share. Just like the publican in the famous story of a mother giving birth to a son in a stable there is always room for Generosity to be born.

A scarcity mentality and approach is ugly. Sharing is all about giving away knowledge, information, ideas, smiles, hugs, time, skills, money, spare spaces. Living generously brings an intimacy and knowing of our deep connectedness. By releasing what we have in abundance or even just a little of, opens us up to new possibilities and being witness to that opens me up a little more too.

Is it time to take down the “No Room at the Inn” sign and put out the welcome mat in your heart?

Living Generously

Living Generously

Born under the Star of Bethlehem

Dear Sor Juana,

It is so much better sharing good news rather than bad news! There is some kind of multiplier effect at work; the sun is shinier and the roses are more perfumed – love is in the air.

The waiting is over and now we get to bask and take pleasure in the reflected adoration of a child. Like the universe expanding, each smile radiates and each coo is a song of the angels.

Our grandson was born on July 4 , and as my friend Michelle has said he is bound to be an independent and brave boy. His first name (Archie) means bold and true and his middle name (Roy) means king, and I hope that means he will grow into someone who will be able to fight only battles that are worthy of him and will live generously and courageously with all those he meets in his journey.

On the day of his birth Venus and Jupiter appeared like two stars and were juxtaposed with almost full moon. This planetary alignment is called by some astronomers a Bethlehem moment. As a student of the skies I wonder if you ever saw this phenomenon through your telescope or naked eye? I have no doubt that with the arrival of every child someone is celebrating a Bethlehem moment of their own as all of creation sings and dances for joy.

Blessing for one born under the Star of Bethlehem

Blessed be the child who is born under the star of Bethlehem.

May he be at one with the Universe

Skipping his way through life

On the energy of the Sun

And in the light of the moon.

May he be at one with his species

Understanding all the while he is the only one of his kind.

May he grow in the knowledge he is loved;

And with all that love comes responsibility to love others.

May he be like Micah:

And live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly.



Dear Sor Juana,

I am being given a test in patience while waiting for my status to change from grandmother-in-waiting to grandmother. It is my patience that is on trial and my ability to not let my own anxieties spill over and infect the mother and father to be – or indeed the aunt and uncles and grandfather to be. I have not been entirely successful and there is definitely fraying at the edges with loose threads moving from invisible to visible. Containment is getting harder as the anticipated arrival of the next generation seems to take two steps forward and then one step back. So much of life is this dance of expectation, false alarms, failure to deliver while the invisible grows into visibility. Pregnancy is a great metaphor and I am learning that witness to arrival also has its lessons.

Waiting is vigilance with purpose.   Being ready to greet what you are waiting for is never passive. You look for the cues, any little sign that the waiting is coming to an end. You prepare yourself for what is coming next, you have a heightened awareness and level of staying awake as so not to miss the moment when the waiting is over. Did you ever feel the anxiety of waiting for a party to start and wondering if anyone will come and then the relief when guests start to arrive and when it is all over you wonder why you didn’t trust your friends to turn up?

You were a lady-in-waiting Sor Juana before you entered the convent so you must of known something of what it means to anticipate what your mistress and the court wanted. Paying attention and having an ability to predict what is needed would have made you a valued member of the court. Your intellect and charm also endeared you and many enjoyed being able to put you to the test with a quiz to show off your intellectual capabilities – something it seems you relished. I am not relishing this test however, and I can’t wait for it to be over and being a lady-in-waiting of any kind, I am discovering is not a vocation coming easily.