Finisterre: Love in the Cosmos; Supernova Grace

A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, reconcile, surrender, and create in ways I hadn’t imagined.

Have you ever looked at the night sky and thought, “It is loving us.” I hadn’t. But the book I mentioned in my last post called Cosmogenesis by Brian Swimme is proposing that reality! As I continue to explore how cosmogenesis broadens my spiritual understanding of the universe and myself, I come bumping up again to Love–from a scientific viewpoint, a Christian viewpoint, a mystical viewpoint and a cosmological viewpoint. And in this moment, they all fit. Love is that big. If you are reading this blogpost, I want to confess that I am writing it for me. I’m trying to understand what I already know and what the universal intelligence is wanting to transmit to me–via those who have asked the same questions, but also to access my own way of knowing that has been within me from the beginning of time.

Thomas Berry, Catholic priest and ecological activist, was preaching in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City when he said, “The universe, along with Planet Earth, both in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence, constitute the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being. The most spectacular unveiling since the birth of the universe is the supernova explosion.”

I didn’t understand what he meant by that. What happened in a supernova explosion, that is, the explosion of a star? I had seen and marveled at the pictures from the Hubble telescope of supernovas. But what is unveiled in that explosion? He went on to explain that “a chemical alchemy takes place in the core of every star. The atoms of carbon are created by stars and poured out into the Milky Way. The creativity of the stars is the one and only way carbon is constructed in the universe, which means each carbon atom in our bodies came from a star.”

Okay. Stop. So there were no carbon atoms before this strange star alchemy–alchemy meaning the transformation of matter. Carbon wasn’t there at the beginning. Stars created it. I think my small human brain has to just sit here and take that in.

Berry goes on to correlate it in a spiritual sense to grace–that is, by the grace of the stars we exist. “Did the universe ask us to pay for this? No”, he says. ” Have we done anything to merit this cosmic grace? No. Stars are bestowers of grace. We are their offspring.”

Just when I was going to question if stars could know they were giving birth to us, Berry goes on to say that in one sense it is true to say that they didn’t know. “But it is wrong to say they did not know. They know how to create carbon, silver, boron, and calcium. They know how to participate in the ongoing development of the universe. They know how to fulfill their role in this spectacular process.” Again, I stopped reading. Do I know my role in this process? And haven’t I been seeking that very thing in all my spiritual seeking?

I’m reminded of Joni Mitchell’s song lyrics of “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden.” How strange to put these words that join this scientific fact with a cryptic reference to Eden–the garden at the beginning of creation.

Berry’s following words, “The central revelation is its irreversible gift-giving. This gift requires the star’s death. This extravagant gift-giving is the spirituality of the universe. It is a form of cosmic love that enables the future to emerge.”

I am no longer an orthodox Christian, but I experience the extravagant gift-giving of the love of Christ. Some call it kenosis–an emptying of Christ’s self. I can’t help but make this comparison between that story and Berry’s story of the supernova. It’s so interesting that I am coming to this as Holy Week in the Christian tradition begins in two days–a week that includes a willing death that emerges into life and the future, not the end. The death of a star; the death of Jesus.

I sit here pondering truths I’ve been told. I sit pondering what is my truth. I sense more and more that it all belongs. If grace and generosity and a giving of oneself is at the heart of creation, what am I willing to let die in order for the future to emerge? I am not separate from the stars I gaze at in the night sky. The stars that I now regard with new understanding, as my progenitors–that in their way of knowing, loved me into being.

The last line of Comosgenesis reads, when we look out at the night sky, we are looking at that which is looking.

More to come. I haven’t got to Julian of Norwich yet.

Finisterre: Wrapping My Head Around an Expanding Universe: Cosmogenesis

A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, reconcile, surrender, and create in ways I hadn’t imagined.

I changed the pledge above of what I want this blog called Finisterre to mean. It had to include creativity and imagination now that the Universe dropped a book in my lap this past week and urged me to read it. The title is Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe by Brian Thomas Swimme. I have so much to explore about this book that I am forewarning you that it may be the creative juice of several of my blog posts to come. Even today I began to make connections between the scientific discoveries of the universe with the mystical visions of Julian of Norwich. But that will have to wait until next time as I need to do more research.

Brian Swimme is a mathematician, a cosmologist, a philosopher and now what he feels he has been called to do for this time in our fourteen billion-year-history of this universe: to be a cosmic storyteller. What kept me reading his history of cosmology in the scientific world from 1968- 1983 was that he told his personal story. It’s a love story really about his wife and sons, his work, the universe and fellow human beings. After reading this story, I now am expanding along with the universe in my relationship to other humans, to the Earth and to the cosmos. I know. I’m gushing a little. But it feels like a turning point for me. Swimme asks his important question, “Is there a new form of trans-conceptual knowledge emerging–one that is rooted in science and yet is holistic and experiential?”

It has been nearly a hundred years since Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is not a static given, but that it is expanding. In 1964, Penzias and Wilson discovered primal light–cosmic microwave background radiation that arrives here in all directions from somewhere near the birthplace of the universe. Our origin is in a “colossal sphere of light.” (25) It is the origin of us.

This statement alone is staggering to me. I have this simple mind that can’t really hold the thought of fourteen billion years, let alone that my origin–these very bones that can dance and the skin on my hands that can touch and my eyes that can see so much utter beauty all came from this beginning. And yet, it intersects with many spiritual teachings that God is Light; and that I am Light. I just never felt it viscerally. I didn’t connect my story with the birth of the universe. I am just these last 72 years of fourteen billion. Because I didn’t think I could comprehend the science of cosmology, quantum mechanics, black holes, string theory, etc., I didn’t allow myself to open to seeing myself as a development from the birth of the universe. That primal light to this being. This flow of energy in my body came from the beginning of time. “Our bodies churn with creativity rooted in the beginning of time,” Swimme writes.

I only know this because consciousness is expanding in this universe. And now knowing this, I am having an experience of it. It’s not just an idea; it is sensing an understanding of what it means to say ” I am.” Or as Thomas Berry, a priest , scholar and his mentor, said to Brian Swimme, “you are the universe in the mode of a human.”

I apologize to making most of this post a series of quotes, but I have to mention this one from Freeman Dyson, who was a colleague of Albert Einstein at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. As Dyson put it, “In some sense, the universe must have known, from the beginning, that we were coming.” (78) Sit with that statement from an esteemed scientist. From the beginning of this universe, at its creation proven from mathematical equations that the universe knew what it was creating–us! Scientific fact that for me parallels the poetic story of Genesis. From the beginning of creating Light on the first day to the creating of humans on the sixth day, this Creative Force knew we were coming. I feel that loving intention for me to be on this planet at this time from fourteen billion years ago. Cosmological love meets Old Testament love.

My brain is struggling with all this, but my heart is not. To set my life experience in the context of the cosmos completes or satisfies or fulfills some yearning in me. And in some sense, it wakes something up I already knew.

I want to write more next week on what this new understanding means about death and grace and supernovas. Feeling a little Star-Trekky.

Finisterre: Where Lies My Loyalty?

A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, forgive, reconcile and surrender.

I stopped by my home for about twelve hours after returning from retreat in Connecticut last week. After packing up new clothes and more food, I headed to our off-road cabin near Trapper Creek where family and friends had arrived earlier for the annual spring-break gathering.

I was still “on retreat” from my time in Connecticut, still pondering the teachings and the experiences. I go there to awaken to what lies unconscious in my soul and is in need of some light to transform me to more of who I really am. One aspect of the teaching impacted me greatly; it challenged me to look at what I am loyal to.

Loyalty–“support that you always give to someone or something because of feelings of duty and love.” There are my conscious loyalties to family, to friends, to specific causes, to some institutions, to vows and to beliefs–all those needed some questioning and re-imagining during the retreat. Am I loyal to those things because my ego needs them to be? Which are still true and which are not?

Yet the loyalties that are more influential are those that lay settled in my unconscious–particularly around my loyalty to mother.

I know. It seems that any psychological cause goes back to the saying, “If it’s not the Mother, it’s the Mother.” And although I’m referring to my actual mother primarily, that term leaks out to include other mothering influences. Maybe anyone where I sense holding, support, and love. Initially, for all of us, even those who didn’t have the nurturing mother I had, there is some field of gold merging love as we are born that is held in our unconscious, and it is feels so rich and luscious and unconditional that we never want to lose it. Although this is a very shortened form of an explanation of this type of love, it is so pivotal for how we develop who we become. And it feels so vital to our actual existence, that this loyalty runs deep and mostly unchallenged. It’s too scary to not have it. It is our ground when we are feeling lost or threatened. I need only to remember the words of George Floyd asking for his mother in his dying breath.

I could tell that it was scary because I didn’t really want to do the inquiry into how my loyalty to my mother may block me from full loyalty to True Nature/God–and coming to my own true nature/self. But I trusted that it wouldn’t really change my love for my mother or any other of my beloveds. In fact, I sensed it would only enhance it–if I could just get past the fear.

For instance, I wondered what part of attending church was being loyal to my mother, as she was so adamant about our every Sunday participation there. She had told me the story about saying goodbye to her father at his deathbed, and his last words to her were, “Be a good girl and go to church and you’ll be all right.” Maybe loyalty to her father was also her loyalty to church–as well as a sincere loyalty to her faith and love of God. I’m not saying that these can’t co-exist–either in her or in me. But when I asked the question, I sensed the loyalty part to her did impact my attending church. It was so much a “should.” And it was so connected with receiving her approval–which as a child seemed like a way of assuring her love as well. But I am no longer a child. What part of me goes to church out of loyalty to my mother and what part is who I really am, what my soul uniquely turns to? Part of my life practice will be asking this question again and again. Where does my ultimate loyalty lie? To my mother or to the Divine? What is my truth in this?

Even as I wrote those words, I felt a little stab of non other than disloyalty. So there is something there, something more to see. And I can only guess that there is not only my loyalty to mother, but also to the church that traditionally teaches “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” But where is my church now and how do I create it? Is it only on Sunday? The church itself is asking these questions. Yet there is an imprint on my young soul that feels guilt in asking those questions, and is loyal to early teachings. I know what I can do is simply feel the guilt and uneasiness or feel my resistance or whatever else arises. Dig up the unconscious and see what God will do with it now.

I also looked at what I am guessing is my loyalty to suffering. It’s pretty murky, but again both church teachings about suffering with Jesus, but also my mother’s suffering as a child and as a mother hold some stance in my soul. Suffering with them feels like showing my love and support and empathy. But is that what Jesus or my mother want? And how does that loyalty to suffering also serve to fuel my unhealthy martyr syndrome? I feel this old loyalty to suffering as I write this, feel how it has its hooks in me, sense how it even makes me feel powerful in a way. My ego feels virtuous in suffering, and as with all egoic patterns, it feels very familiar.

Where will all this inquiry and questioning lead me? All I can be sure of is that it is unknown. Most of the time I want to know and control. That is my fearful ego, always afraid when it can’t call the shots. But I know from experience, that this kind of questioning has led me into the unknown before, and always I have been held and loved, guided and turned closer and closer to that which I seek–my true self within the Holy. It’s fresh and rich and feels like I’ve dug a tunnel under and out of a jail cell.

I look back now and see that I did stay true to following my spiritual path instead of going with the family to the cabin when everyone else did. This loyalty didn’t change my love for them or their love for me. Perhaps it even brought us closer.

Finisterre: It’s a Great Pleasure

It’s Monday. It’s the day to post my blog. I thought I’d be home this morning, but I woke up in a bed in an airport hotel in Minneapolis after my flight home was delayed. The view out my window is of pretty white snow; my room is warm; I had a complimentary breakfast. And no doubt I will get home sometime today. Whenever I want to even think about the disappointment of missing my connecting flight, all have to do is think of having nothing left in my life when family and home were destroyed by earthquake in Turkey. Or think of living with the threat of bombs falling down in the street below my window if I lived in Ukraine. And of course, I could come up with a hundred scenarios to jog my gratitude instead. It quickly puts it all in perspective. And who knows? Maybe I needed another day before re-entering my familiar life.

I spent the last week at my semi-annual retreat in Connecticut with a Diamond Approach retreat group that I’ve been part of for nine years. It was on Pleasure. I anticipated a time of joy and celebration and it very much was. But as a group, we had to work through all the blocks to having pleasure and to being pleasure itself. 

For me, I was taught that pleasure only came after the work was done on the farm. In some subtle ways, pleasure had tones of indulgence or laziness. And if I dug deeper, early church teachings always paired pleasure with warnings of sin. Lust, greed, sloth to name a few. To this day, I don’t allow myself to watch a movie or take a nap in the middle of the day. Or if I am doing nothing, and I hear my husband coming in the house, I jump up and look busy, even though my husband always encourages me to relax. (But my father didn’t!) All this and more leaves me this morning more aware of what gives me pleasure and how I don’t always allow it.

 Even yesterday as I waited five hours for my plane to arrive, I noticed I found so much that delights me. Little children. A particularly good smoothie. Texts from friends wishing me safe travels. Finding a rocking chair in an isolated corner to read my book. A friendly waiter who made me laugh. The memories of skits and a dance party the last night of the retreat. 

What deepened me even more though, was the fact that I can have pleasure while at the same time holding the sadness of an earthquake in Turkey or bombs in Ukraine, climate change or a rude person in line, or yes, missing a flight. Pleasure and sorrow aren’t either/or. They are both fabric of this human life. Life is a both/and. And it’s real. It’s not even a balance of pleasure and sorrow. It’s just holding the paradox and letting myself feel whatever is here. 

We had a memorial for my dear friend, Linda , at the retreat since she died during the pandemic, and this group hasn’t been able to meet in person for three years. I was both laughing and crying with the memories–and both these things gave me pleasure. It’s a pleasure to have had such a friend and grieve her. It’s a pleasure to remember all we shared. And all this is part of a bigger understanding that everything belongs. I live so often rejecting my experience, instead of just being with it and seeing what unfolds. I wrote much about this in my book on the Camino. But that’s the way it goes—we keep coming back to the same teachings, but they land more firmly as I “keeping taking a pass at it,” as my teacher says. So eventually I have begun to walk more often where I stay open to what is happening and be curious about it, let myself feel it and don’t come up with my ideas of what’s pleasurable or not pleasurable, who’s acceptable or who’s not, what’s right and wrong, what’s good or bad. 

I need to go catch my shuttle to the airport now, but I will leave you with this Rumi poem. He wrote it a thousand years ago. We have had this wisdom available to us for so long and yet it is a hard one to live. I ask for the simple grace of surrendering to it. 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

There is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

The world is too full to think about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each 


doesn’t make any sense. 

Heading home to Alaska, heading home in my heart. I’ll meet you there. 

Finisterre: Going Further

A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, forgive, reconcile and surrender.

Sometimes a poem flops down in front of you and demands to be read in that very moment. Unusually insistent, always not what you had planned for the day and, for this kind of poem, one that is uncomfortable. That is the truth of the poem that opened up in a book as I moved it from my bedside table. The poem was short. The poet was Rumi who I hold dear. So I stopped my packing for a trip I leave on tomorrow and let the poem have its say.

Reach your long hand out
to another door,
beyond where you go on the street,
the street
where everyone says, “How are you?”
and no one says, “How aren’t you?”

I don’t know what Rumi was trying to say in his time, in his context, in his soul although I can guess– with Rumi’s predilection to Love. But with a poem, it’s really only relevant in how the poem stirs in the person reading it. And it stirred up in me a story from over twenty years ago when I was at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, taking my required class in Multicultural Ministries.

The teacher was a fiery woman of Mexican heritage in her forties who served as the pastor to the prisoners at the penitentiary in San Jose. We had just returned from a field trip to that penitentiary where the population was primarily people of color. Where I saw a young man in solitary confinement look at me through a narrow window slit with one wild eye pressed so hard against the glass with a despair so great that I was thrown back by the force of it. We watched the rough treatment by the guards, the suspicious looks of the inmates, the stark, colorless, dark nature of the cell rows. Where it seemed the question always being silently asked was, “How aren’t you?” How aren’t you human? How aren’t you worthy? How aren’t you of value?

When we met back at the classroom, the teacher told us how she had recently created an Easter worship with many of the prisoners there.. She spoke of the joyous music they created, the earnestness of their desire for God, and their sense of belonging in the service that morning. She was so touched. It was only later she learned that the guards, not wanting the prisoners to remember who they really were, forced anyone who was at the church service to be strip searched–“included all orifices” is what the teacher said. “It wasn’t necessary,” she said. “The space was secure and everyone coming from outside had been thoroughly searched. They just couldn’t let the prisoners have their dignity back.” In unison, we were indignant with her.

And then she had us do an exercise that haunts me to this day. We sat around a table so that maybe ten or twelve of us were looking at each other. And we were each given the role of someone at the prison: warden, prison guards, prisoners, chaplain. She gave us a scenario which I don’t remember. But what I do remember is that within just a few minutes, we literally became our roles. Sweet Monica was the punishing warden. And she flourished in it. I was one of the prison guards who fell easily into being powerful and in control. How did I know this arrogant confidence? The prisoners shrank and grew silent for the most part. The ones who talked back were so effectively put down that maybe just ten minutes into the exercise, we had to stop. We had become the humans that made us indignant. We were the humans asking other humans, “How aren’t you?”

It shook the whole class. It literally took our breath away. As we debriefed, we all reported that we were shocked at how easily we could shift into these roles–and even more damning, that we enjoyed the roles– if we were the ones with power. “The prison guards are in prison too,” said our teacher. The prison guards can lose their true selves too.

That class taught me a lot about racism, defining it as prejudice with power. I have never forgotten that as uncomfortable as it is, I am prejudiced and as a white person, I have power. I may not want to be. I may have all the right intentions and say all the right things. And even do things that look kind and understanding to those unlike me. But it is inherent. It is patterned in me. I have much further to go as I “reach out a long hand to another door” and “beyond where I go” currently on the street.

This is good conscience, it’s not that relentless inner judge that is always trying to put me down. No, this is good conscience that turns me toward truth and points the way of integrity. And I cannot by my own strength change. This is something I cannot do. This transformation is one that walks only on the street of surrender. Being present to the truth. And waiting to be undone by Love.

Finisterre: Beyond Our Imagining

The day after we finished walking the 500-mile Camino, Steve and I opted to go see another significant and historical part of the Camino—Finisterre, Latin for the “end of the world.” The Romans named this far west point of Spain thus because at that time, it was believed that there was no more earth beyond this shore. 

In Camino history, this is believed to be the spot where the patron saint of the Camino, St. James, first stepped onshore in Spain. Gradually this became the place where pilgrims went after reaching Santiago to watch the sunset and burn their clothes, believing they were forgiven and reborn by the pilgrimage. It is about 90 km. from Santiago to Finisterre, or a three to four day walk. We opted to join other pilgrim friends on taking the one-hour bus ride to this seaside village; our bodies needed rest.

I remember standing on the rock at the edge of cliff, above a sea illuminated by the low sun. Surrounded by remnants of burned hiking shoes and sooty pieces of clothing, I felt the presence of the other pilgrims who were like me, yearning to return home to themselves. Wanting to burn away old patterns that no longer served. Wanting to simply be. 

As I stood there, I tried to imagine being in a world where understanding of our earth as a sphere was unknown. And even though I know this from a scientific standpoint, as I looked out, it did seem as if the firma terra had ended and all else beyond was deep ocean and an endless horizon.

As I continue this blog, I’ve felt drawn to move from calling it the Little Camino to framing it around the word, Finisterre. What lies beyond this world had always intrigued me, from the time I craned my head back as a child to look at the world through the stained-glass windows of church. Seeing the world through these pattens and colors softened my usual view and opened my heart to something more than my eyes could see. That first urging of the Spirit has guided me to keep seeking, knowing that I will be found as I am finding. 

 “We are in this world, but not of it.” This is one of the tenants of the Diamond Approach path which I follow. As well as the Way of Jesus, who spoke these same words when asked about who he was. What does that actually mean in my life? How do I walk on earth, yet live knowing there is so much more above and within that is my true home?

I thought again of this as I received a cross of ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday and heard the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” When I was a pastor administering this rite, my colleague and I changed it to, “Remember you are stardust and to stardust you shall return.” It’s true. The earth is made from stardust and our physical bodies will return to that same dust. But saying “stardust” implies that we belong to a huge universe of possibility. 

I watched that possibility last night as the skies above my house flew, soared, danced and pulsed in the wonders of the northern lights. Just when I thought there could be nothing more dazzling, the skies lifted their skirts and do the flamenco. Seeing red in the northern lights with the naked eye is so so rare, but not only did the edges of the rivers of light glow red, a huge red cloud appeared and stayed at the end of the valley. I kept blinking to be sure I wasn’t imagining it. The sky pulsed with energy, as if was breathing–urgent puffs and then long sighs. After an hour or more, I had to retreat inside to watch as the temperature dropped to one degree. And it was then that I noticed my soul. It was full of color. It was dancing. It was of exuding joy. I couldn’t go to sleep. I was AWAKE and ALIVE. My feet were on the earth, but soul had left to “trip the light fantastic.”

I am not sure what will frame the coming blog posts—and in a way, not knowing is so freeing. Yet I wonder—was this generous experience of light a glimpse into the answer to my question–when I am awake and alive, I am touching the beyond? 

Little Camino, Day 34! And Then There Is Joy

Keeping my pledge to write thirty-four weekly blog posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life–the same number as the days I walked this pilgrimage.

It is the final blog of this series–and a new one will begin next week (wait for it ; ) But for today I want to remember the moment of completing the pilgrimage we had set out upon.

“As we reached the center of the plaza and turned to see the face of the cathedral, the low clouds parted and rays of sunshine fell down on us. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I felt a new kind of joy that tumbled inside of me and lifted me up off the ground. We had arrived. We hugged. We kissed.We had someone take our picture.” A dream had come true.

Certainly the immediate joy was that the rigor of the journey which we had set for ourselves was over. But there was a joy in knowing that the Camino had started some new work of transformation–work I knew intuitively was the work I wanted to do more deeply in my life as the road led on. And one significant part of that work was allowing more joy into my life.

I just finished a Diamond Approach weekend retreat on Joy two weeks ago. It really is the intention and blessing of this benevolent universe. Yet I came to realize how easy it is to tamp down Joy. If there are so many people suffering, should I have joy? If the planet itself is being taken for granted, is it reasonable to live a joyful life? Can Joy show up in hard places? The answer in this teaching was, “It’s not easy, but it’s possible.”

This essence of Joy has many facets–it it playfulness, lightness, wanting, curiosity, a sense of yellow, a flourishing, an expansion, a spaciousness. Its sacred impulse is “I wish.” That revealed to me how it may be hard to wish for what I want because I’ve been disappointed so many times. Or I still operate under religious teachings that emphasized putting others first and serving their wishes, but not mine. Wishing for what we want, what gives us Joy may be associated with being selfish or with guilt for wanting. Being playful brings up some doubt that I’m acting childish. It’s so interesting to see that essence that I want so much in my life, I doubt and question and don’t trust.

Yet I’ve never forgotten that Jesus said, “I came so that you may have joy and have it abundantly.” Joy is a sacred gift and has a sacred purpose. Can I receive it?

When I reached the end of the Camino, I had so many regrets and sadness about how I walked it. And yet, I had joy a the same time. I think the strange possibility in Joy is that perhaps, with care, we can hold seeming opposites together at the same time. The world can suffer greatly and yet I can find great joy in many ways. I can be playful but also mature. I can be afraid to explore and also be curious to learn what is around the next corner. I can want something selfishly, and I can want something just for pleasure of wanting it and feeling how happy it makes me.

There is the much quoted wisdom of Howard Thurman who said. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The teacher of this session, John Davis, asked two important questions: “What would it be like to see a person or an experience that you’ve had many times as if it was the first time?” Or “What would it be like if you knew it was the last time?” Could I experience the joy of that moment?

There is a powerful force in Joy that wants to be made manifest in me and in the world. It can break down the clutch of the ego that is afraid of things being “too much”, and let me just be.

As this section of my blog closes, I have a deep joy for all of you who have followed the Little Camino over the past thirty four weeks. Thank you for your support and comments. This Little Camino going forward is too obvious– to let joy be abundant in my life and scatter that beautiful essence wherever the journey takes me. Buen Camino!

Little Camino, Day 33: Acceptance Reimagined.

Keeping my pledge to write thirty four weekly posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this pilgrimage.

I’m posting this late on Monday; I’ve re-written the post three times. It still doesn’t say all I want it to or as clearly as I wished. But it is time to let it go and let it be. I know I have much more to explore about this movement within me. Here is my first pass at it.

When I was a young girl, I was curled up in a ball on the stairs of my home, sobbing. I’d just been told my two-year-old brother was going to die. My mother came to sit beside me and held my hands in hers. She didn’t say anything and listened while I asked how could this happen, why did this happen and where was God in all of this? Then she leaned in and whispered, “Some things you just have to accept.” Accept? That was it? What did that even mean? I didn’t think how hard this was for my mother–that she must have been asking the same questions I was. And this was the answer that she was holding onto to steel herself for the days ahead.

I did trust my mother, and I could tell she was speaking from her heart to me. But the questions remained. I felt helpless and useless against this news. What good would just accepting do? As I grew in years, the questions came again and again as I faced challenges. It seemed naive and foolish to just accept what was happening. There was all this talk about surrendering to God–was that accepting? But as a young woman I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my hard-won personal power to an image of a male authoritarian God which still prevailed within me. Accepting had shades of giving up.

It is only more recently that I’ve come to understand acceptance in a radically different way. In fact it feels like a whole paradigm shift for how I view life. It was this question that shook me. “What if you just accepted your experience without judging it? Neither rejecting it but also not approving of it?” It seemed so simple. What if I leave out any judgment of what is happening in my life? Just stay with the fact that what is happening is happening? This is reality. Why fight to change it or fight to keep it the way I want it?

Here’s an excerpt about this process of accepting from Soul Without Shame (pg. 96.) “You don’t have to like your experience; you simply don’t resist it. Resisting your experience is the same as not trusting the movement of true nature–believing you must control things to ensure movement because you do not experience the larger flow of reality. By not resisting, you don’t get stuck or fixed on a particular feeling or concern, so our experience is able to now flow and transform more easily and naturally.”

To return to the news of my brother dying, this is a stance not really available to a child. It is a realization of an evolving spiritual journey. I’m almost 72 and just now it makes so much sense to me, but not before. And yet I want to write about it as it feels like the next step on my pilgrimage. So from this place, if I was to receive the news that my brother was going to die, I would still have the deep sadness of loss that comes with loving another who is leaving. I wouldn’t like it. But I wouldn’t resist this news either. Because it is the truth of what it happening. I believe this is what my mother was pointing to. The ego and the inner judge want to be control and to protect and keep life between the lines. But the true self takes a step within, and is simply present with what is. In this way I can be helpless and give up the ego–which is fact, not wise at all. Again, my mother’s repeated saying throughout her life was, “It is what it is.” I used to be annoyed with that saying–like it was a cop out. But now I understand.

Fifteen years ago, my wanting to be wise like this was put to the test as I walked the Camino. My ego and the judge ran the show, even when I wanted to just let things unfold. But I was aware of my resistances and fears. And that awareness is where it started. Just being aware. There’s no trying in this shifting. It’s allowing and accepting the change that is occurring. Maybe that’s another definition of grace.

I have a new image of God that is far different from the one of my nine-year-old self. It is one that is with me and not separate from me. As Paul writes in I Corinthians, as a child I reasoned like a child: (I might insert, I only knew myself as my ego), but as an adult I put an end to childish ways. As an adult, I am able to live with mystery. I am humble enough to know I only see through the mirror dimly now. There is Being, the Reality that I will see face to face. But for now, I accept what is happening. Or as Jesus taught us to pray–“Thy will be done.” My ongoing Camino.

Little Camino, Day 32. More on Othering: and my Explanation.

Keeping my pledge to write thirty four weekly posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this pilgrimage.

I am posting this blog on Friday instead of Monday as I am leaving for a week at our cabin, a place with one bar of cell connection on a good day. I need to explain my last post before I leave.

Last week when I needed to make a correction to my blog. I had only heard about the beating of Tyre Nichols that week through the comments of my husband. “Another black man beaten to death by five police officers,” he said with deep regret. “The footage is just awful.” That was enough for me to decide not to watch it. I knew I was too tired from an overnight flight home to handle seeing that violence. And I will confess that I couldn’t handle seeing George Floyd beaten either. Again I was told the story and that was enough for me to join in prayer and in mourning for all the ways we misunderstand and hurt one another.

So imagine my surprise to learn how I had my own assumptions on this beating. My original post said it was by five white police officers. My husband read my post right away, and quickly told me of my mistake. “It was five black police officers.” This shook me awake. I hope I can explain how it made me see that I had put white police officers (maybe all of them) into a category of being racist. And I had put all black police officers in a category of not being racist. And I wasn’t aware of this at all until my assumption was there, pardon the pun, in black and white on the page. I didn’t see them as individual humans, connected to me.

Again I set up a strange othering.

A few days later I was asked if I would take on a new person seeking spiritual direction. I’ve had several new directees lately and decided, that no, for the first time I would say, not right now. Maybe later. Then I learned that she was Muslim woman refugee. Right away I said I would take her on. Why the change of heart? Maybe because I have a heart for the refugees? Or a sense of superiority that I could help her or guilt that I should offer to listen with her–her with so much challenge in a new culture? Maybe all of these.

But the person who was asking told me that this woman didn’t want to be tied to her story of being a refugee. She was tired of that identity. She wanted to be seen as another woman seeking questions about her relationship with God and growth on her spiritual path. AGAIN, I saw how I had othered her, put her in a category that was separate from me, I texted back to my friend who was asking and said, “It’s good to remember not to other the person that I’m trying to include.”

On the Transformational Listening website (www. there is a quote from an unknown author: “The way to make a better world is to make better humans.”

I understand those words to mean that I need to continue to do my own work at being a better human if I want, and do want, to live in a better world. I need to accept myself first as being human–a human that needs to learn how to love herself better, so she can love others from a place not filtered through prejudices and shame. A place where I don’t project my own pain and bias onto others. A place where I “see no stranger.” Thank you, Valerie Kaur. I see no stranger in myself or in the human community, or even separate from plants, animals, the planet, the universe.

Yes, it seems an insurmountable aim. But here I am, willing to look at two instances in my life last week where I was blind. That is a step, maybe two. I also am committed to finish a book group that is studying, A Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown. I’ve tried to read it on my own more than once, but it hits too close to home. With the support of the group, the book is opening up so many doors I’ve closed to my own loving. It takes a bit of courage to look at it. Yet it’s another step.

As I finish this blog, I think of you who will be reading it–on this same Camino–wanting a better world where a person isn’t beaten to death and a woman is not forced by violence to leave her home country. Not an easy walk this. Struggles along the way. A lot of worry and fear. Some regret. Deep sadness. Some hope. Yet, the journey home to loving ourselves and loving others is only accomplished by taking the next step. That’s my Little/Big Camino not just for this week, but for however long I am blessed to walk this pilgrimage on earth.

Little Camino, Day 31: Othering (Corrected draft–with my apology)

(Keeping my pledge to write thirty-four posts on how walking the Camino continues to impact my life, the same number as the days I walked this pilgrimage)

Even as I start this post, I know I cannot give the topic justice in the usual 800 words I give these posts. Yet it seems better to say something than nothing at all.

I didn’t know this word othering until taking an online class recently. But its definition is all too familiar–“a process whereby individuals and groups are treated and marked different and inferior from the dominant social group.” It’s familiar because I’ve done to others, it’s been done to me, and I’ve done it to myself. It’s a way of judging and a form of hatred which separates us from others and from ourselves.

In my book, The Long Walk Home I confess to othering many times, particularly regarding patriarchy in the church. I separated myself from men who used power, greed and authority to advance their own ends in the church. I had many good reasons and justifications for my criticism and questioning of this long tradition in Christian church history. And I had personally felt its sting as a child growing up in the church.

It hurts to not belong, to be judged, to be an outsider, to not be understood, to be marginalized, to be demeaned and threatened. Because different is seen instinctually as something to fear, it leads to violence as we have seen in the horrific beating of yet another black man, this time in Memphis by five black police officers. This level of hatred is both reprehensible and incomprehensible. Yet we are not separate from it. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we all hate something or someone. We all have feel insecure and defensive. And sometimes that is aimed at ourselves. We judge parts of ourselves as different and inferior to what we desire and try to bury those parts of ourselves. But they aren’t dead.

One of the greatest learnings from the Camino was facing how I had made any church patriarch as an other–someone I couldn’t love, someone so different from my feminine understanding of a relational, not hierarchical church. I was so sure I was right, so sure they needed to change and not me.

I thought my Camino was over when I entered the plaza in front of the cathedral. But there was so much more to come. If you have read the book, you remember that as I entered the cathedral to find a place to sit in the pilgrim mass, the high mass of Pentecost (Whitsunday) was ending and the ecclesiastical procession of high patriarchs was processing out through the crowd that was entering. I still believe that I was pushed by the hand of God right into the archbishop of Santiago! At the end of a long journey for transformation, I was shown that self-righteousness had separated me from another human being who was trying like I was to follow God’s ways. Face to face. A foot away. The grace of it all was that I saw it. I felt my heart melt with humility of my arrogance–just like the arrogance that I accused church patriarchy of manifesting for centuries! There was a crack in my armor.

This othering, this hating of others, discriminating of others, separating of others, demeaning of others, hurting of others is still a core part of the work I need to do within myself even these fifteen years later. I live into that quote from Valerie Kaur, a Sikh woman who has known the worst of othering in her life and in her community: “You are a part of me I do not yet know.” I have so many parts of me yet to know. And there are so many others that I do not know at the level I could have understanding and compassion. It feels daunting and it compels me.

Richard Schwartz says, “When we love all of our parts, we can learn to love all people–that will contribute to the healing of the world.”

So my little Camino, which is actually bigger than my original Camino in this regard, is to learn to love all my parts. To do the hard psychological and spiritual work of knowing my ego and inner judge so well that they no longer run the show. I do my work to part the veils of their defenses and fears that keep me from loving myself and others. And I do it every day, asking for help, leaning on grace. I will do it because I want to contribute to healing in this world.