Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Devote Yourself

"Yours is to live it, not to reveal it." - Helen Luke 

I am reminded of the gift of Mark Nepo's gentle wisdom as I read the piece he has selected for each day of the year in his luminous work, "The Book of Awakening." Today's reading begins with the quote above, from his mentor Helen Luke - some of her last words to him before her passing. As abrupt as this quote sounds upon first reading, Nepo goes on to explain:
"...I've come to understand her last instruction as an invitation to shed any grand purpose, no matter how devoted we may be to what we are doing. She wasn't telling me to stop writing, but to stop striving to be important. She was inviting me to stop recording the poetry of life and to enter the poetry of life.
"This lesson applies to us all. If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow. For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live. Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising."
This passage struck me deeply. What does it mean to "devote ourselves to the life at hand?" Looking up "devote" and "devotion" tells us that it involves wholehearted giving of oneself and one's resources; the root is in "consecration," - the word's origin is "vow."

It resonated with one of my favorite passages in "Radical Grace" by Richard Rohr. Writing about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her actions upon receiving the visit from an angel who announces Mary's pregnancy, Rohr says:
"The events themselves will be her guide and teacher. She does not need to figure it out and plan accordingly; the plan will be given by God through life's encounters. Reality is her teacher. That is why she could hear angels.
"Decisive action beyond our fears gives us a sense of our own power and the power of God within us. [Mary] can hold her power comfortably because she knows it is from Beyond."
I held on to this passage when Katie was in the hospital. My prayer practice had been so peaceful and regular, before her illness; once we were uprooted and transplanted from our old life, my practice became prayer-in-action, pray-as-you-go, the prayer of living service. It was the prayer of devotion, wholehearted giving. Now, eight years later, I pray to work and live as wholeheartedly today as I did then, in the midst of the crisis of illness.

Since Katie's passing, I have accepted invitations to serve in places which - eight years ago - were not even on my personal radar: the University of Washington's School of Medicine and Field's End Writer's Community are two examples. Serving on panels, taking classes and teaching classes are fun and rewarding ways to give. Now, I have entered a new field of learning and service: I recently completed the first level of Jikiden Reiki training. Reiki is a spiritual healing practice which is not linked to a religion. It originated in Japan, and it is a way to practice healing prayer, relying upon the power of Universal Life Force, or ki (which is another name for God). I am enjoying the practice enormously.

This is a natural step, after a summer of suffering physical pain, limitation and the medications which masked it. It is also a natural step, considering my attachment to my DVD project as "the" way to help clinicians deal with their grief and pain. In releasing my grip on that project, I can now see other ways to serve. Reiki is practiced in medical centers and has unlimited potential. Its Gokai, or five principles, are:
Just for today -
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be grateful
Do your duties 

Be kind to others

In "Do your duties," I hear, "work wholeheartedly,"  or "devote yourself."

Life itself is revealing where I need to go. God provides the inspiration, and the power of His creativity and love, and I follow, as wholeheartedly as possible.


Robin said...

Lovely, Karen.

Kim Andersen said...

Such an interesting life you live ... I can say that knowing that my life is equally interesting though vastly different ... aren't we just so privileged to have reality as our teacher?