by D. Patrick Miller
The Seizing Dog • The Old Child Burns • Shedding
The Completion of Emptiness • A Scrubbed-Earth Policy
Only a Matter of Time • Low Tide for Oligarchs
The Second Coming of Magdalene • Thrown by the Ancients
The Wars of Duality • Composting • The River, Changing
For hours I dreamt of rage • Prayer for Morning Intentions
When God Is
THE SEIZING DOG
Four women have stopped, still and observant,
just before a rise on the river path. They are all
masked, speaking in quiet tones, almost penitent.
They are watching a man twenty feet ahead,
crouching on one knee, tenderly stroking a
dark-coated dog quivering on its side,
breathing heavily, its head rolling unnaturally.
I can’t see enough to understand. As I pause
silently behind the women, one turns to explain:
“His dog is having a seizure.”
How little we can do sometimes
when the spirit seizes up in the body
and struggles to flow through the inner electric
pathways that have somehow gone errant,
short-circuited, or tangled in confusion.
All we can do is comfort the shaking frame,
try to soothe the frantic mind, wait in hope for
a return to normal or dread a final loss of presence.
In this moment I wonder if the animal’s spirit
has actually panicked, realizing that it is trapped
in a strange body when it meant to be flowing
with the river or flying through the air. How often
do any of us feel truly at home in our encasement?
How often are we restless, distracted, on the verge
of panicking because we do not understand how
we got inside these bodies and this world, and
how to know what we should be doing here?
I turn back, leaving the small church of women
to hold witness for the caring man and his
struggling dog. The air is oscillating with
life and death, and I need to go home.
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THE OLD CHILD BURNS
There is a child within who is not innocent
for he remembers too much without understanding.
He has aged without maturing, growing inflexible
around a chaotic core of constantly swirling tears.
He is a monster of sorrow hiding behind
veils of bravado: stubbornness, suspicion,
resentment and ire.
This old child does not want to be seen
or identified. He plays tricks of projection
so that the world seems to be punishing,
but it is only his sleight of hand stealing attention
and creating anarchy. No amount of mayhem
will gratify him, because his appetite
for unhappiness is endless.
Like a vampire, the old child shies away from
the focused light of awareness. When you
look fully upon him you must have the
compassion of a skillful seer who brings
the mercy of recognition. The old child
is enflamed when seen with such clarity.
And as the burning within becomes
almost too much to bear you will know
the old child is dying at last, so that
peace and vitality may flower
in the ground of his ashes.
A weed trimmer, a rocking chair, an exhausted couch:
this is just some of the detritus of a phase of life
ending of necessity. How strange that we attach
bits of ourselves to lifeless objects and feel
a little diminished with their disposal.
It is as if our belonging in the world secretly
depends on a collection of things that have
served small purposes. So we falter a little when
some things and their reasons are removed.
We are even more pained to let go of ideas,
habits, and perceptions that have built a
world inevitably coming to a close. We do this
many times in our lives, if we grow at all.
For we are in training to let go of all the worlds
we’ve imagined, one after the other, on the way
to a worldless home not built of things, beliefs,
or compulsive ways of seeing. We are slowly
shedding this prison of form to remember
the infinite love we came from,
and how to return there.
THE COMPLETION OF EMPTINESS
Even though they say the atoms that comprise us
are nearly empty, we check ourselves in the mirror
to see how our solidity is doing. Does it look
pretty or awful, confident or besieged, giddy or
depressed? Is it putting on a good show,
or betraying a shaky uncertainty?
And is that what it’s wearing today?
It’s a wonder that we keep striving for completion
in a world that offers so little of it. A drug, a drink,
a kiss or a compliment may make us feel whole for a
tiny rivulet of time, when we want an ocean of forever.
No feeling lasts, no bright idea shines away all the
surrounding darkness. We can’t even collect our
thoughts, that we might lay them out before us
to assay their true value. Are there some glittering
jewels among them, or are they just an unruly
mass of cheap marbles, all destined to roll off
the table and hide in the nooks and crannies
of the musty house of our mind?
I would be still an instant, if I could, and go home.
I would trade the achy sleepiness of my solid body
for the loose freedom of the sky. I am as changeable
as the clouds anyway, and they don’t pause for selfies.
They know they are gone already, and never assumed
the mythic shapes or faces I tried to assign them.
The clouds just come and go and don’t mean
anything by it. Never pretending solidity,
they know the completion of emptiness.
A SCRUBBED-EARTH POLICY
You can’t say you really know how to clean
unless you were trained by a manic-depressive.
As I find myself fanatically scouring dirty baseboards
that are likely to be repainted regardless, I’m aware
of my mother’s scrubbed-earth policy virulently
awakening in me. As a kid I did what she told me
and learned a thoroughness beyond all reason.
I did not carry the insane anger that drove her,
so I learned resentment instead. But it was a weak
substitute, not authentically mad, not insensibly
compulsive or unconsciously grieving. Eventually
I learned that I did not have to exhaust myself
to prove my worth, or somehow prove a point
to some cruel, nameless ancestor.
Perhaps the skill of becoming ourselves lies
not in rejecting all the excesses taught to us,
but by extracting their value up to the point
before they cross into madness. Like using
soap instead of acid, we can learn to recognize
“This is enough. This much I can use.”
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
It is only a matter of time before
the check engine light comes on.
What will you do then?
Will you shrug nonchalantly,
flinch with a twinge of fear, or feel
momentarily ashamed for being
Perhaps you’ll worry about what other
precautions you may not have taken.
Before you came to be here,
did your check karma light come on?
Before you were born, did your
check parents light come on?
Before you fell in love, did your
check misgivings light come on?
You may be paralyzed with indecision.
Every day, you might wonder whether
it is better to roll heedlessly through life
or plot each step with excessive care,
struggling mightily to feel insured
against every kind of darkness.
There is no foolproof warranty
to cover all misfortune.
But you may find comfort and
joy in one inevitability. It is only
a matter of time before the light.
LOW TIDE FOR OLIGARCHS
REUTERS, 3/3/22: France and Germany have seized two superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs, French authorities and Forbes magazine said, hitting Russia's super-rich under sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine…. "Thanks to the French customs officers who are enforcing the European Union's sanctions against those close to the Russian government," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday after French customs seized the 88-metre "Amore Vero" (True Love)…
The truth is, they’ve always ridden heavy in the waters,
with the wealth of ill-gotten gains weighting them with
a sorrowful ballast. The sea is our one mind. We can
cleanse it not only of the plastic junk of our thoughts
and the overheating of our consumption, but the
flotsam and jetsam of floating greed.
Our one mind is God. May we master the grace
of coolly cleansing ourselves with the simplicity
of kindness, the holiness of shared resources,
the compassion of rescuing refugees everywhere.
May we show mercy to the oligarchs by
running them all aground, so they might stumble
ashore to rejoin the rest of us and discover
the true love they thought could only be pirated.
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THE SECOND COMING OF MAGDALENE
for Lyna Tevenaz
The old man is having heart trouble. His war
is not going as expected, with a hail of Molotov
cocktails and TikTok videos slowing his troops’
advance, giving them time to comprehend
that the righteous invasion he sold to them
has purchased no glory at a gruesome cost.
Neighbors and relatives are screaming in
the soldiers’ faces and asking why. There is no
victory parade, nor cheers of acclamation.
The old men have been having more trouble
with their wars as time goes by. Nothing can
be kept secret anymore, as everyone can
see greed and savagery on flatscreens and
smartphones. Someone has ruined the old men’s
formula for success and is bringing the cost of
their cruelty home to them. Their yachts are
drifting in search of safe harbors.
Long ago an old man with heart trouble killed Christ,
the teacher, and thought he blinded the world.
He did not comprehend that the savior’s vision
was passed to an apostle whom everyone
dismissed as a whore. Christ had taught her
the secret that hearts cannot be conquered,
only changed from within, and that it is long work.
It would be her work to complete. She would
arise within the ready hearts of the world
when the time was right.
Now the old man’s heart is seizing.
His ways are slipping from power and the
terror he has long displaced onto others is
returning to him. It is a crushing humiliation,
for he sees that he will be the last in a long
history of corrupted souls. From everywhere
at once, Mary holds her phone to the truth
and broadcasts it for all to see, a tiny tentative
smile of grace forming behind her rain of tears.
See marythemagdalene.com for the research & writings of Lyna Tevenaz
about Mary Magdalene. Lyna is also the author of the upcoming
Fearless Books title Prayers for Light and Strength.
THROWN BY THE ANCIENTS
As I walk the paved path in slick running shoes
I’m drawn down a steep dirt trail toward the river.
Suddenly gravity warps, upending space and time
and landing me, hard, against a tree whose roots
sink into the history of this earthen spot.
For ten thousand years a simple civilization thrived here.
Countless generations drew their sustenance from the
water, the trees, and the wildlife ceaselessly arising
from the river, whose steep banks were nimbly run
by the shoeless and the moccasined. Living and dying
passed by on this ground as nature designed it,
for a time that must have seemed like forever.
From extinction grows a mischievous wisdom.
The soil-dark knowledge of long-interred ancients
invites inquiries from the living, yet nearly all of them
walk by unawares. Sometimes one is chosen to be
thrown down toward the river, to bring the ear
of his heart to the ground. From there he can
choose, like anyone could, to listen for
the lessons of the roots.
THE WARS OF DUALITY
Make no mistake: every war begins with
the cataclysmic split of self from soul.
Every crime of parental abuse, every rape,
every suicide, every grab of wealth over
the common interest, every religious rip-off,
every invasion of sovereign territory
by a miserable ruler with delusions of glory…
There is one human conflict, played out in
countless variants daily. Nearly everyone is
mad with loneliness for the constant company
of their soul. Call it the God within, call it
a holy spirit, call it a simple abiding;
it is not the name but the awareness
of an infinite presence that matters.
It is the knowledge within us that cannot
be shaken or disturbed, but can be forgotten.
No one remembers trading the soul for self.
No one recalls stepping down from heaven
into this world, because the cost of remembrance
would seem to be everything we hold dear.
No one recollects the beginning of time,
when all these wars of duality started…
and yet it was just a lonely moment ago.
Do not fight your junk thoughts, petty grievances,
bitter memories, and useless worries. Recognize
what is wasting your mind’s time, and let it all
drop like drifting leaves into the fermenting
soil of pre-awareness.
Trust the alchemy of a mindful rot. Engage the
hidden life of contrary feelings mixed together,
half-formed ideas reshaped by the sculpting
of chance collisions, and addictive fears
short-circuiting each other. The mind’s agriculture
can turn such waste into magic and gestate
new creation from chaos.
This is the composting of consciousness.
Instead of being driven by darkness, we can
stir its countless energies with intention,
holding a reverence for mystery while
courageously allowing change
beyond our imagining.
THE RIVER, CHANGING
The river appears just as it did yesterday
yet none of the water is in the same place
even from moment to moment. Yesterday’s
water is long gone, and has likely reached
the ocean. Am I seeing the same river if
it is constantly arriving and departing?
Often the wind drives surface ripples
in the opposite direction to its flow,
compounding illusions. But stillness
yields the most powerful distortion:
Upon the water’s flat surface I can
see the riverbank on the other side.
Trees and underbrush are clearly on
the water, and yet they are not.
How much of what we think we see
is only a reflection? How many of the
ripples of time are moving against the
flow of real change underneath? If we
managed utter stillness, would there be
nothing to see at all?
For hours I dreamt of rage
For hours I dreamt of rage, not against
the dying of the light, but at the darkness
in living. I saw my own suspicions and petty
hatreds grow to monstrous proportions,
fed by the mad energy of the wars
I had watched while waking. I accused
the innocent and screamed at everyone
who could not hear. I tried to disguise
my murderous intentions with
loud righteousness. Finally I awoke
Madness is contagious, transmissible
in a single case of road rage or the
pandemic of war. We are inoculated
not by denying our capacity for lunacy,
but by admitting its presence in
our bloodstream and choosing to
witness it with a wary kindness.
Perhaps if we give it permission
to act out in dreaming, we will not
make a nightmare of our daily lives.
A PRAYER FOR MORNING INTENTIONS
Let me remember that I can intend grace:
not a day of perfect behavior or rightly
corrected speech, but hours of awareness
leavened with care. This is the higher
consciousness that matters, in which the
raucous cries of self for full attention are
acknowledged but soothed with calm
surrender. In that surrender may I see
the chaotic struggles of all humanity kindly,
aware that they rise from ancient bad habits,
but remembering that a different path
forward is always possible. Given the
crazed mixture of cruelty and compassion
that I see in all the world’s appearances,
may I remember the capacity
to be cheerful but grave.
WHEN GOD IS
Neither a superdaddy nor a schizophrenic judge
of his own creation, God is a potential that rests
between the jostling synapses of our gray matter
and crimson heart. She awaits our choice of
direction and our willingness to become new beings.
When we have chosen to exorcise the unforgiven
past and trade our grievances for understanding
— and thus become ready to let kindness
rule every thought and action —
then God is.
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© COPYRIGHT 2022 BY D. PATRICK MILLER
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