The Speed of Soul Blog

Carrie Newcomer
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Friday Quote and Thought

 ”I believe in kindness, also a mischief.Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” - Mary Oliver

Most of our great spiritual teachers did not encourage us to maintain the status quo or the current domination system. The call has almost always been to live out a different understanding of abundance, welcome the stranger, and to live out lives of radical love. When we lean into the Light and try to make kindness our first reaction, we are are upsetting the prevailing models of fear, scarcity and cynicism. This kind of living can be considered mischief or trouble making by some. So today, live into a life that is grounded in kindness….and create a little mischief.

what do you think about this quote?

Things I Never Imagined I’d Say

My dog has five sweaters.

I am too old now to die young.

In spite of all my mistakes, she turned out fine.

I still do not know the answers to the most important questions,

Living with more questions than answers feels comfortable.

Lets throw some tofu on the grill.

I have a foot long albino catfish named Whitey Ford living in my pond.

I make my living on the meanderings of my mind.

I can afford the name brand Cheerios, but I stopped eating Cheerios.

I have five long time friendships that I haven’t screwed up.

I found a copperhead snake on my porch and dispatched it with a shovel.

I miss gathering with friends to listen to both sides of a new album.

I kissed a giraffe.

I don’t have to be afraid of that now.

I get a little weepy when I smell Vic’s Vapo Rub

Mile wide tornados happen regularly.

I know the names of hundred’s of wildflowers, trees and bird calls

And yet, there are more to learn, which does not feel like a failing,

But a wonderment.

My two  beautiful lesbian friends are legally married.

I don’t have to wear a slip.

It’s not my parent’s fault.

The most intelligent news on television is presented by late night comedians

They ended the space program.

Our president is an African American.

I don’t have to hold my tongue.

I don’t have to speak.

I don’t have to finish every book I start.

The man I married twenty years ago still surprises me.

My inner teacher can be trusted,

Despite everything,

It is still completely possible. 

The True Nature of Knowing

      Hank was a retired carpenter, a mystic and a poet.  He attended the Bloomington silent Quaker meeting for over fifty years and passed this spring at the age of ninety-five.  I always meant to spend more time with Hank.  We talked about meeting for coffee or lunch at the Hob Knob Cafe, but I never followed through. I got to know Hank through sitting together for twenty-four years in the silence of a Quaker meeting for worship.  I knew the companionship of his kindred spirit as our souls clasp hands across the room. I knew him through hearing him speak out of the silence in the manner of friends; a brief story or phrase that a person feels pressed to speak out loud to the gathered community. It takes a long time to get a true bead on when to speak and when to be silent, in a Quaker Meeting. Eventually most of us learn to listen deeper and speak less.  Eventually we experience not trusting our inner voice, decide not to speak, and realize later we should have. First, you let go of speaking, then you let go of the silence, and then you let go of judgment and have patience with yourself and the process.  Over his long years, Hank had learned the art of this kind of patience and discernment.  When he stood to speak, we all leaned in.  He sensed the unseen world everywhere, especially in the natural world.  He caught something luminous from the corner of his eye and would put it into language.  He often spoke of an aging oak tree and a red tailed hawk that always seemed to appear in the most meaningful moments.  He quoted Whitman and Emerson and his beloved Edna St. Vincent Millay.  “Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough.”  He embraced the world, loved the world and could never get it quite close enough.  He told circular stories, starting at point A and often visiting B, C, Q and 11 before coming back to A.  But I found that if I hung with the story, if I listened with my heart instead of my linear mind, when he finally brought the story back to A, I would sit awash with wonder.  It was always the journey I needed to take that day.  I heard over the course of twenty-four years, small details of his daily life, large experiences that shaped him.  I heard about morning coffee with his wife Mardi.  I heard about small shining moments with his daughters and grandchildren.  Occasionally, he would speak of his experiences as a conscientious objector in WW II. He had been sent away and interned in several northwestern work camps.  They needed the soldiers.  Hank was dangerous and many believed he was wrong or cowardly.  War haunts everyone it touches.   There are different kinds heroes, and more then one kind of courage. I heard the phrases that had followed him for years and the things he still had not figured out.   I heard the small nuances of this man’s spiritual life shared with humility in a quiet room.  After meeting, we would find one another.  Often one of us would say, “Friend, you speak to my condition.” Which is Quaker short hand for “Today you spoke what my heart so needed to hear.” Sometimes we would chat over an oatmeal cookie, or during an after meeting potluck. We talked about poetry and our shared love of the mystery of language.  Reveling in how poetry works at a slant; inferring what cannot be spoken at all, creating a container for our longings and for all things of shadow and light.  I miss him. 

In some ways, I’m not sure I could have known him better if I’d had that cup of coffee with him at the Hob Knob.  But, I think I would have cherished those conversations and that feels like a missed opportunity.   But Hank taught me that there are different ways of knowing one another.   It was Hank who showed me that I could feel closer to him in the silence then I did with people with whom I spoke everyday.  I learned that knowing someone primarily through his or her soul’s journey is a privilege and incredibly personal.   I don’t believe that the kind of friendship and knowing that I shared with Hank was greater or lesser than our more common ways of being in relationship.   It is a lateral kind of knowing.  We experienced friendship as if it were based in poetry instead of prose, side by side in the quiet, centered in the wordless, the daily and luminous.  We were very close friends in the manner of Friends and that has changed forever how I think about speaking, listening and the true nature of knowing.


Why We Keep Trying

"Hate can never end hate" MLK
No, hate can only combine and make more of itself, multiplying as the hate deepens over time. It is only love that matters in the end, only love that makes any true and long lasting change, only love that can transform something that seems impossible. Yes, the love we live and manifest in the world are small acts, but these tiny rebellions do shift the balance toward the Light, changing us as we change the world. Thats why we keep trying.

Normal is overrated

Being “normal” is overrated. It’s often when we dare to be more truly ourselves, and appreciate others more truly as themselves that our deepest and most life giving connections happen. It is challenging, because there is cultural, community (or even family) push back. But what a joyous thing that the exact arrangment of atomic elements that is you, has never happened before. You are a wonder, and the world is more wonderous because you are here. What a gift that in all of the infinate strands of time, that my unusual collection of elements got to spend these days with your unique collection of elements. And for that I am grateful.

Wednesday Speed of Soul Conversation -Spiritual Community and Environmental Action

In virtually every spiritual tradition there are sacred texts mandating that we protect creation and help those in need. I’m not sure why some spiritual communities have focused great energy and resource on issues of sexuality (limiting women’s voices and denying social justice for same sex couples). I cannot help but feel that this is misdirected energy and a distraction. I am encouraged when I read and hear daily that more spiritual communities are moving their focus to issues of environment, justice and care for those most in economic need. I’m encouraged when Pope Francis makes public statements like ” let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” I am encouraged that I now read regularly statements made by prominent Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders that love and care for this planet is an issue of conscience and great imperative. Yes, environmental issues and climate change can be a scary topic and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But, then I remember that it will not be one big solution that heals our planet, but rather many solutions, and that each one of us does our small part. The Dalai Lama said “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” When our work for the planet is grounded in a deep and abiding love for this good green earth, we don’t burn out as quickly. We are not so afraid, but instead buoyed up by an interconnected secular and interfaith community. 

Question- So what do you think…should we as people trying to live lives grounded in love focus more on issues of environment and care for those in economic need? Do you have a link to share with us to an organization that has given you hope, resources or connections?

What’s at the heart of it…

Something good happened to my writing when I stopped following the business of music and started following what the songs were about  

I write songs, but I write songs about something. At the point I fully embodied the above quote, something shifted in my life and work. It was like I’d been trying to swim upstream, and now I was swimming with my own inner currents. 

So what is at the center of your life and work? What would happen if you were not teaching math, but educating hearts and minds to the elegance and expansiveness of math? What if you were not doing a nursing shift, but nursing with attention to how deeply you love and care about people and healing. What if you were not checking out groceries, but rather laying hands on every meal, honoring the importance of good food and sharing it with others?

It seems like a small shift, but that perception changed everything for me. I don’t just write songs, I write about finding something extraordinary (even holy) in our daily lives. Writing that way, deepened my work and asked me to personally embody the idea. 

So what will you “do” today…and what best part yourself and what you love will you bring to the “doing?”

The Glass

The Glass is not half full or half empty.  It’s just a very big glass. 

Wednesday Speed of Soul Conversation -Having a Good Ponder

Thoughts about reflection and songwriting…Having a good ponder, mulling over what looks to the outside insignificant, is the true work of the poet/songwriter. It goes along with looking out the window and grinning ridiculously at nothing much. Mulling is a big component of songwriting, right up there with rhyme, rhythm, melody, getting stuck, getting lost, circling around, ecstasy and connection so bright you cannot look at it directly, you can only approach it on the slant or be blinded. 

So, how does mulling, percolating, and taking time to ponder figure into you life? Does it help you cut through the white noise of our busy culture? Is it a priority? Does it happen only occasionally? How does it intersect with your daily life and work?image

Should Corporations Have the Same Rights as Individuals?

As a person who has deep spiritual convictions, the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision really troubles me.  

I cannot frame this case and ruling as a religious question. This case and ruling were about establishing the rights of a for-profit company (not an individual or even a non profit religious organization).  This case was more about establishing whether for-profit corporations can have the same rights as a person.  No, this conversation should not be about religious freedom, That is a right guaranteed to individuals.  This conversation is really about the rights of for-profit private companies.

Even when it comes to the religious rights of individuals, these rights are limited. As  as a Quaker, I am not allowed to deduct from my taxes the money that will go to the creation of war machines or military actions Quakers do not support.  

Because the owner of this for profit company did not want to include certain women’s reproductive health care in their insurance plan, this case has become very emotional and cast in the light of the choice/anti choice discussion…but again, that was not the issue being decided. 

I venture to say if Hobby Lobby had gone to court suggesting they should not have to pay taxes that will go directly into military machines of war because of religious convictions, there would be a different frame on this conversation.  And most likely, the Supreme Court would not have been ruled in favor.  

No, it was not about religion and religious freedom, but rather about how much unchecked power for-profit corporations should have in our society. 

This court has already opened a flood gate of unchecked political money flowing from corporations to politicians and campaigns with the Citizens United decision giving corporations the rights of individuals.  This is taking that decision one step further.  Citizen’s United and the Hobby Lobby decisions both remove individual protections, in favor of expanding the power of corporations.  

I have refused to talk about women’s reproductive health in regards to this case.  I have personal and religious convictions regarding that discussion.  But, again, that is a very different, important and tender discussion.  

Deeply troubling.