“Heart Parts” a poem by Kelechi Ubozoh

This thing inside me beats again

Size of a closed fist

Strained muscle

Pink insides

Awake Aorta

Vulnerable

Artic exposed

I can’t control it.

Years of being buried under another’s name

tattoo across closed tricuspid valves.

See, he wants lazy phone calls and holding hands.

He wants sky gazing on a blanket.

He wants to ask me all the questions.

This Chicago kid with a chipped tooth smile.

Honey brown eyes, full lips…

He wants conversations about books.

He wants soft whispers.

He wants time.

I want to devour him and drown in this feeling.

Who knows if I’ll ever feel it again?

Contracting heart

Blood flowing

Pumping

Woke up from a death like sleep.

Oh precious heart, I thought you perished in the fire.

Awakening hurts.

Fleshy pink, so raw and open

No fresh dew softness

Jarring sharp

Numb breaking

Band-Aid ripped off a cool scabbed wound.

Missing film around my heart.

I lean in.

He leans back.

Don’t turn me crazy with your silence.

You woke up

all my heart parts.

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Elliott C. Nathan in collaboration with Living Artist Project
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Definitions: The Necessity of Art (Part I)

I have spent years looking at color and studying history through the lens of art, attempting to make the world around myself beautiful. Certainly, what we create is deeply influenced by what we see: the fragmentation or wholeness of life begins within. My walls burst with a vibrancy I believe reflects my deepest nature. The collective images around me emerge into a singular experience of my own story, retold.

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Writer Toni Morrison

In times of despair, art is no luxury. Essential to the healing of the psyche, beauty in her many forms is a conduit for soothing inflamed pathways, a distraction from our own external or internal whirls, a meditation on purpose. Through our eyes, the story of the extraordinary other, the Beloved, is transmuted into wordlessness, a state of suspended ego. Go there.

 

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”    ~ Toni Morrrison

The Art of Reconciliation

I don’t know how to fix things. I don’t know how to make things work again once they fail. I’m no engineer. I am a tinkerer.

I know how to listen. I listen with my ears. I listen with my mind. I listen with my memory. I listen with my heart. I listen with my intellect. I listen with my emotions. I listen with my eyes, my experience and my pen.

Each listening hears differently. Each listening possesses its own attunement. Listening is a teacher, a healer and a decision maker. Listening is passive and active. Listening is an ancient form of communication, a dance with the moving molecules of existence.

How do we listen to one another? How do we listen to the beloved? How do we listen to God, to history, to our deepest self?

These simple questions, unpacked, can tell us about how we hear and process the world.

In many religious traditions, a time of quiet contemplation, reflection and solitude are prescribed for a special kind listening and hearing to happen. The challenge in contemporary society like ours is to value and consecrate time to the practice. We unfortunately view quiet and solitude as suspect, luxurious or superfluous. Without dedicated time for listening and stillness, we cannot hear our highest calling—we are not able to listen for our next steps. And, instead, we fill all of our time with noise, in essence, censoring our own receptors from the deep hearing our souls need to thrive.

With what do we fill our lives? For some, life is endless talking without pausing to digest, listen or consider. Next, we permit ourselves to be saturated in the constant bombardment of media from televisions, radios and other sources of media. We are addicted to social-media platforms, unable to eat a meal without a device in one hand, consuming tasteless food and ingesting unexamined content with our eyes. Whether we fill our time with other people, fictional or factual content, sounds in any form, we cannot reconcile without some sort of retreat into solitude and serenity. In the second episode of the deeply grotesque and compelling series, Black Mirror, the main character tries to lie down silently in his room; unable to shut down the endless stream of programing that is forced upon through all of his waking hours, he shatters one of the many screens lining the walls of his room. Even this does not afford him even a temporary reprieve from external stimulation.

The metaphor in the episode is only partially hyperbolic. We are under the constant pull of instant news, messaging and reminders. Only when we are about to burst will we try to shut the devices down—even then, we may not be able to sever ties to the technology that plugs in to the noise. We may not pay in the literal sense that the show depicts, but we come close. Serenity, the show suggests, becomes the domain of the wealthy, but I’m not sure that the wealthy are any better at getting quiet or sitting in stillness.

We all need to step back from life, devices, Internet, news, chatter, magazines, regularly. For some, a daily retreat in the form of meditation or prayer is necessary; for others, a periodic abstaining from external stimulus or a foray into nature will suffice. The dedicated time needs to be intentionally gifted to the self, an official offering of the heart, for renewal to happen. If we don’t make a conscious choice, our bodies and minds will often decide for us. That can be a very painful process.

Clearly, I am not an expert on how to patch up broken moments. I am a woman who was once desperate to repair important relationships, holding to an uncompromising optimism about outcomes and drowning out the pain with business. The surrender for me came when I could no longer exact effort, forced into isolation by physical ailments and immobilized by emotions owing to my inability to repair the damage to important relationships. At that time, I found the opening into radical acceptance, a place of listening and hearing, a knowing that was the entirety of the experience—sitting with my pain with my raw emotions. At first the solitude and quiet turned into an enormous dragon, my monstrous failures eating me alive. Gradually, the dragon settled into a protective guard dog, alert and vigilant, yet utterly gentle and loving, a new experience of the self.

Now I seek moments of solitude, reflection and silence regularly. Cultivating the practice of retreat in myself, I allow for serenity and stillness, to make the necessary peace with my life. Peace requires turning the external world off periodically. We can lose so much of ourselves in the process of life. We are prone to forgetting our priorities when we don’t make time for introspection. The process of retreat is necessary for compassion and healing and opening. The reconciliation with the self, returning the self in loving kindness is the only possible way to find peace. We must cultivate that peace in ourselves.

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My Essay In The Mindfulness Bell

Dear Friends and Family,

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Happily, one of my essays has just been published in the Autumn 2016 issue of The Mindfulness Bell, a journal dedicated to the practice of mindful living. My essay is a reflection on my recent journey to New Orleans with Mindful Peacebuilding’s Roots Retreat 2016. You can subscribe to the Mindfulness Bell or order the autumn issue directly from the magazine. Proceeds from the Mindfulness Bell go to support the worldwide healing and transformation work of the Thich Nhat Hanh community.

 

http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/subscribe/

 

http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/us-subscriptions/us-one-year-subscription

 

 

In gratitude,

 

Edissa Nicolás-Huntsmanimg_8954

“Invitation” by Mary Oliver

 

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Oh do you have time

to linger

for just a little while

out of you busy

 

and very important day

for the goldfinches

that have gathered

in the field of thistles

 

for a musical battle,

to see who can sing

the highest note,

or the lowest,

 

or the most expressive of mirth,

or the most tender?

Their strong, blunt beaks

drink the air

 

as they strive

melodiously

not for your sake

and not for mine

 

and not for the sake of winning

but for sheer delight and gratitude—

believe us, they say,

it is a serious thing

 

just to be alive

on this fresh morning

in this broken world.

I beg of you,

 

do not walk by

without pausing

to attend to this

rather ridiculous performance.

 

It could mean something.

It could mean everything.

It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:

          You must change your life.

Excerpts from James Allen’s “As A Man Thinketh”

 From “Visions & Ideals”

Cherish you visions; cherish you ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.

Dreams are the seedlings of reality.

“Gifts,” powers, material, intellectual, and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objects accomplished, visions realized.

The Vision that you glorify in your mind, the Ideal that you enthrone in your heart—this you will build your life by, this you will become.

~ James Allen

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“To Rich Givers” by Walt Whitman

 

What you give me I cheerfully accept,

A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money,

as I rendezvous with my poems,

A traveler’s lodging and breakfast as I journey through the States,-

why should I be ashamed to own such gifts? why to advertise for

them?

For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman,

For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance

to all the gifts of the universe.

 

And Because Love Battles by Pablo Neruda

 

 

And because love battles

not only in its burning agricultures

but also in the mouth of men and women,

I will finish off by taking the path away

to those who between my chest and your fragrance

want to interpose their obscure plant.

 

About me, nothing worse

they will tell you, my love,

than what I told you.

 

I lived in the prairies

before I got to know you

and I did not wait love but I was

laying in wait for and I jumped on the rose.

 

What more can they tell you?

I am neither good nor bad but a man,

and they will then associate the danger

of my life, which you know

and which with your passion you shared.

 

And good, this danger

is danger of love, of complete love

for all life,

for all lives,

and if this love brings us

the death and the prisons,

I am sure that your big eyes,

as when I kiss them,

will then close with pride,

into double pride, love,

with your pride and my pride.

 

But to my ears they will come before

to wear down the tour

of the sweet and hard love which binds us,

and they will say: “The one

you love,

is not a woman for you,

Why do you love her? I think

you could find one more beautiful,

more serious, more deep,

more other, you understand me, look how she’s light,

and what a head she has,

and look at how she dresses,

and etcetera and etcetera”.

 

And I in these lines say:

Like this I want you, love,

love, Like this I love you,

as you dress

and how your hair lifts up

and how your mouth smiles,

light as the water

of the spring upon the pure stones,

Like this I love you, beloved.

 

To bread I do not ask to teach me

but only not to lack during every day of life.

I don’t know anything about light, from where

it comes nor where it goes,

I only want the light to light up,

I do not ask to the night

explanations,

I wait for it and it envelops me,

And so you, bread and light

And shadow are.

 

You came to my life

with what you were bringing,

made

of light and bread and shadow I expected you,

and Like this I need you,

Like this I love you,

and to those who want to hear tomorrow

that which I will not tell them, let them read it here,

and let them back off today because it is early

for these arguments.

 

Tomorrow we will only give them

a leaf of the tree of our love, a leaf

which will fall on the earth

like if it had been made by our lips

like a kiss which falls

from our invincible heights

to show the fire and the tenderness

of a true love.

 

~Pablo Neruda

What Church is For

 

 

We made our way back to our old church in Oakland for Easter Sunday. It’s been a year, possibly even last Easter, since we made the trip across the bay for fellowship. At church we found the comfort of a community that received us warmly. The hugs alone were worth the time spent in the car. Even total strangers embraced me, moved as they were by the spirit of the moment. We joked that we couldn’t find our name tags, even while the reality of our homecoming sank in.

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The choir was enormous. I missed my friend who married and moved away, but there still seemed to be room for her. I strained to hear her voice. During silent confession I thought of my sisters, and asked for forgiveness–again. My joys filled my heart under the blaze of the Holy Spirit depicted in the mural of Jesus on the throne. I thanked God for the community we shared, and the joyfulness of little girls in bright dresses delighted with childhood. The faint scent of candles in the air and the sunlight reflecting off Lake Merritt spelled it out clearly: home, again.

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The Resurrection is a time of renewal. It coincides with spring, Passover and blooming gardens. We are filled with hope, and it is reflected in our very presence. We dare to start over again, encouraged by birds and tadpoles. Where is this one? And how is he? Never mind. Just put your arms around me and let me breathe you in.

 

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An Eye for Miracles by Diego Valeri

 

You who have an eye for miracles

regard the bud now appearing

on the bare branch of the fragile young tree.

But already it is a flower,

already a fruit,

already its own death and resurrection.