spiritual teachings

E.B. White & Winding the Clock
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E.B. White & Winding the Clock

Of late things have been hard. 

My heart is broken. Broken again, for the 3477th time this life.

“Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time,” wrote E. B. White, to a despairing Mr. Nadeau. The actual first paragraph of White’s letter said:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.”

I must say, on this journey, I have met some extraordinary people. Amazing, wonderful people. They hail from disparate walks of life, different races, different cultural backgrounds. Some  are immigrants, no two from the same country of origin.

They share a love for Freedom.

They are passionate. They are quirky. They are independent. They tend to be wildly intelligent and creative and brimming with life.

They tend to be honest.

Right now some feel inconsolable.

I feel fortunate to have encountered these souls, who are all, as I am, beset with difficult feelings.

People I considered friends have shown their true colors. I know now who really has my back. It’s painful and it’s good.

I counseled some lovely friends: “We must think of ourselves as the Londoners during the War. They thought God had forgotten them. God-Goddess-All-that-Is hadn’t forgotten them then, and hasn’t forgotten us now.”

But E.B. White that masterful wordsmith said it better:

It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

So tomorrow I will rise too early, as always. Luminate coffee with coconut creamer and coconut sugar, beguiling and delicious. I will wind the clock.

Hope
Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.

 

 

On Love
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On Love

On Love

Of late, I think about love. The nature and meaning of love, the kinds of love.

References to love abound in our culture. Mostly those references concern romantic love. If you play American music, you will hear all manner of songs about romance, its thrills and heartaches. Other shades of love, like agape love, are mostly ignored.

Certainly, the dizzying rush of falling for someone is a kind of love. Taking a lover to bed and opening…opening…opening to the passion of merging is a kind of love. The great poet Rumi uses that merging to lift readers into an exaltation of love, the profound love of the omnipresent Beloved.

But there are other kinds of love and it is those less heralded varieties that are rolling around my thoughts. For example, love is forgiveness. In this world where we are all imperfect beings doing the best we can, forgiveness is essential. We are all going to hurt each other. Your family members will badmouth you or fail to support you or steal your inheritance, your friends will lie to you, your spouse will threaten to divorce you or, devastatingly, will stray.

Forgiveness is love in action. It’s love that says, “I may never again put myself in the position to be hurt this way by you, but I release myself from re-experiencing this pain over and over again, and I release you to your own karma, which is between you and God.”

Forgiveness permits—encourages—the one who made the mistake to recover their dignity and self esteem. Forgiveness is understanding that we are all prone to err. As painful as it can be, forgiveness is a blessing for both the forgiver and the forgiven.

Another kind of love is allowing someone to project their shadow onto you. Parents and therapists know this kind of love all too well. Sometimes, in the process of integrating themselves, a child or client is scorched by his or her own dark side. That person needs to disown it and project it outward onto someone else. It’s a pure and great form of love to hold that until the person can own it for herself and heal.

Life is a great journey. A friend of mine told me that the basis of love is respect and kindness. At the time, I agreed, though I thought to myself that it was a tepid basis for something so vast and protean. Now I realize, respect and kindness are the basis for friendship, and friendship is an integral component of every love relationship. But those aren’t necessarily love.

Rather, love is giving everything when called. It’s saying, “Yes, I’ll be there for you as you need me, no matter what the cost is to me. So if you need me to sell my house and take up residence across the street from you to catch you when you fall, I’ll be there.” Following through on that promise: that’s love.

Love is that you’d lie down in a street and let a truck run over you if that saves your kid. And you feel grateful for the opportunity. That’s love.

Love doesn’t wait to be given to first; it doesn’t negotiate; it doesn’t play tit-for-tat. Sure, yes, relationships between flawed human beings require constant negotiating. But love isn’t negotiable the way people aren’t fungible.

Love’s accounting is about giving and offering and surrendering. It’s about giving everything, everything, with hope but without expectation, and allowing the chips to fall where they may—because we humans can’t control everything. All we can do is love and allow.

On Love

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love
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Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

(reprise of a Facebook Post I wrote)Marriage and Family are Real Sabin Howard Traci Slatton

 

Marriage

This is our family. We’ve gone to see the Tree at the Met for nearly 2 decades.
It’s love. Family is love, and it is everything. Family is real.
Family radiates from a marriage. Marriage is love, and it is everything. Marriage is real. Imperfect, unglamorous, full of laughter and tears: real.
Sabin and I have been married for 13 years, together for almost 18. We’ve stood beside each other, holding hands and enjoying holiday uplift, for nearly 2 decades.
Marriages are built on such things: trips to the Met and to Italy and to the pediatrician and to the kitchen to cook breakfast; shared jokes and shared Figurative Sculpture books and shared victories and shared burdens and, yes, shared challenges. Every life encounters conflict and obstacle, ache and loss. These are real, too. And they are so much easier to bear with your family, your mate, holding your hand–as Sabin and I have held hands for nearly two decades.
We’ve held hands through lean times and good times, through sickness and health, through the birth of our daughter, when I died twice and was narrowly revived by a doctor who had “never seen so much blood in her life.” We held hands and held each other in a spacious room in Venice while the rain pattered on the canal during our 10th anniversary.
Even though this year, 2017, has been so hard, forcing a lengthy and devastating separation, I affirm our marriage. Marriage is 1000 tiny threads that bind people together, and those threads are shared experiences. I affirm our threads. I affirm our marriage. Sabin Howard, I love you.

Marriage and Family are Real

Marriage and Family are Real

Movie Review: Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil
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Movie Review: Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil

Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil pleased me enormously. I love Bosch’s work, and there were several moments during this documentary when the camera lingered adoringly over his paintings.

The film tells the story of gathering Bosch’s paintings for a 500th anniversary show in Den Bosch. A group of museum guys—archivists, restorers, historians—track down the works, and then have to wheel-and-deal with assorted other museum types in order to borrow the paintings. The Venetian museum director said, “These paintings cannot leave the Galleria L’Academia unless they are restored.” That was a thinly veiled shake-down—the Dutch team had to pay for the restoration. Leave it to the Italians.

The Prado bureaucrats were hilarious. A lot of delicate negotiation happened off-screen, but was implied. I chortled a few times.

A painting and a drawing were newly attributed to Hieronymus, and one painting was de-attributed. There was a scene when the team was asking, “Who will call Ghent to tell them?” Meaning, what poor sap would have the misfortune of telling the museum in Ghent that their Hieronymus Bosch wasn’t painted by Hieronymus Bosch? The team leader, they decided.

Meantime, a painting in a Kansas City museum was newly confirmed as a Bosch. That was fun. It makes me imagine finding a dusty, cracked old painting in the attic…and having it attributed to a great master. I could write a novel about that. Maybe I will.

It is, ultimately, Bosch’s imagery that is the star of this film. I was delighted to realize that not all the fantastic figures hail from the astral plane. Many do, of course; you can see the same demons there, if you alter your consciousness so as to perceive the astral plane. However, several figures are actually from the Devic Kingdom. I exclaimed out loud, right there in the Film Forum theater, when I realized that. How cool! The Devic Kingdom represented in a painting from 500 years ago!

The Garden of Earthly Delights ranks among my top 10 favorite paintings, it’s just ravishingly beautiful, a feast for the senses. I get lost in it.

If you like Bosch or love art, then go see Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil. It won’t disappoint.

Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil