Held by the Great Mystery

I seek to live intimately with my own life and the world.  

When I am able to live with real intimacy, 
When I pay attention in each moment 
And do not shrink away from what is true, 
I experience a presence that is not mine alone,
That holds me even as I hold the moment.
This presence, this Great Mystery, 
Known by many different names –  God, Spirit, Allah, the Great Mother –
Lifts me, fills me with a vast silence
And a sharp taste of the interconnectedness of all life.
I have faith in this Mystery and the many ways in which it sustains us.   

I want to love well. 
I seek to increase my ability to be with the truth of each moment,
To be with what I know, the sweet and the bitter.
I want to stay aware of the vastness of what I do not know.
This is what brings me to the journey, 
I do not want to live any other way.   

And sometimes, I allow myself to imagine
That each moment in which we love well 
By simply being all of who we are and being fully present
Allows us to give back something essential 
To the Sacred Mystery that sustains all life.
-Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Trumbull, CT full moon rising

Today’s post is in recognition of deep gratitude for my long-time dear friend Sue Koehler. Sue was a Jesuit Volunteer with Ken, Kate, Trisha and me in Seattle 1985-86. On the occasion of her birthday on 1/28/23, it is fitting to express heart-felt joy for our enduring friendship and love. Sue continues to inspire me with her beautiful presence, compassion, wisdom and spiritual depth. This poem, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from her book “The Invitation” was shared today in Rev. Sue’s daily newsletter. You may want to follow Rev. Sue who is the pastor at Annisquam Village Church in Gloucester, MA@ annisquamvillagechurch.org.

“Wherever you are on the journey of life, may you know yourself as blessed.” – Sue Koehler


The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Barry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


On the occasion of the four year anniversary of Ken’s transition, naturally, a poem befitting of his transcendent nature appears. Our Love continues to grow deeper, as we experience you in far more boundless ways! Ahh, what Joy your reunion must be. We feel your presence with us always!!

“Star-Breath” by Joyce Rupp

I lie awake on summer’s greening grass

soon to be soft with evening’s dew

I lie expectantly, silently,

waiting for a presence to breathe upon me.

With the first sigh of the evening star

my heart responds to a distant touch,

a wisp of recognition, a waft of joy.

Life-giving breath of the galaxies 

sails through the heavens

into my grasping, yearning spirit,

uniting me in the morrow of my soul.

Star-breath washes over me

like god-breath

filling the soul of a new creation,

awakening my soul’s withered bones,

lifting them into lightness and dance.

I open my small, isolated self to the stars

and am once again healed of my disparity,

the falsehood of a separate identity.

Infusing star-breath fills my soul

with eternal oneness.

My being absorbs the star’s sighing,

and I enter into the easy sleep

of endless communion.

Mysteries, Yes

By Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Gratitude and love for Mary Oliver, on the 5th anniversary of this Alena Grace blog! Great teachers help us find beauty and truth even in the darkest of times. Her words have strengthened me to know I am here to learn and to love.

As Margaret Renkl so poignantly states in her recent NY times op-Ed 4/5/21: “…as the poets remind us, too, suffering is not our only birthright. Life is also our birthright. Life and love and beauty. ‘When despair for the world’ is all we can feel, as Wendell Berry puts it in The Peace of Wild Things, the world itself —with its wood drakes and its blue herons ‘who do not tax their lives with forethought/of grief’ — may be our greatest solace.’

For a Dancer

(Lyrics from Jackson Browne song 1974)

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down

I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around

Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
I can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening

And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing

Dancing our sorrow away
Right on dancing
No matter what fate chooses to play (There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known

Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end, there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
Just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found

Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around (The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive, but you’ll never know

This April is the 25th anniversary of National Poetry month. https://poets.org/national-poetry-month

Recommend op-ed in NY Times 4/5/2021 written by Margaret Renkl, titled Thank God for the Poets.

“May you find and create the path that is solely yours, while knowing you are not alone.” JK

Moon and Water

MOON AND WATER by Mary Oliver

I wake and spend

the last hours

of darkness

with no one

but the moon.

She listens

to my complaints

like the good

companion she is

and comforts me surely

with her light.

But she, like everyone,

has her own life.

So finally I understand

that she has turned away,

is no longer listening.

She wants me

to refold myself

into my own life.

And, bending close,

as we all dream of doing,

she rows with her white arms

through the dark water

which she adores.


Through the lense of Love, we experience the richness of life-pulsing, welcoming, uniting, transcending; and only then do we understand that we belong to each other. And perhaps we begin to realize we’re all walking each other home. Namaste


Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart 
which safely exists in the center of all things? 
His giant heartbeat is diverted in us 
into little pulses. And his giant grief 
is, like his giant jubilation, far too 
great for us. And so we tear ourselves away 
from him time after time, remaining only 
mouths. But unexepectedly and secretly 
the giant heartbeat enters our being, 
so that we scream —-, 
and are transformed in being and in countenance. 

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Love will not be denied!

The Way of Unknowing

Ken loved John of the Cross and often contemplated his poetry, using inspiration drawn to write prose and prayers, both during his time in the monastery and throughout our 33 years together. I could sense the depth of Love written in text and yet myself, struggled to find its meaning in my life. Everyone who knew Ken, loved him because he was humble and embraced the way of unknowing. It translated into our feeling the warmth of his heart and love.

Without thinking too much, I saved many books from Ken’s collection and am invited over and over to come closer to John of the Cross’s hidden secrets imbedded within his works. Some of these paths, calm me with exquisite resonance. Pema Chodron, writes plainly and to the heart of the practical, about the “glorious” and “wretched” and how one cannot exist without the other. The “dark night” is like this. Ripe with mystery, paradox and uncertainty, within the solitude of the darkness is a return to the infinite…ever watching, welcoming and so patiently waiting for our homecoming.

I have gratitude for the free, daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation, that arrive daily in my email. Fr. Richard Rohr brings many spiritual people from diverse backgrounds and anchors the sharings with a rich, non-dual spiritual depth. It is best I think to reprint the text in its totality from today’s daily meditation. There’s a lot to ponder.

“…the “dark night” as a gift can be misleading because such times of unknowing are almost always endured more than enjoyed. However, the experience of mystery, paradox, and not-knowing brings to our lives a rich and unexpected grounding.Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

The following text is reprinted from The Center for Action and Contemplation:


Descriptions of the “dark night of the soul” from the Spanish mystic John of the Cross (1542–1591) have become the marker by which many Christians measure their own experience of unknowing. He fits an entire life spent exploring God’s mystery into memorable poetry, and even dares to call unknowing “an ecstasy”! Here are several stanzas from his poem “Stanzas Concerning an Ecstasy Experienced in High Contemplation”:

1. I entered into unknowing

Yet when I saw myself there

Without knowing where I was

I understood great things;

I shall not say what I felt

For I remained in unknowing

Transcending all knowledge.

. . . .

4. He who truly arrives there

Cuts free from himself;

All that he knew before

Now seems worthless,

And his knowledge so soars

That he is left in unknowing

Transcending all knowledge.

. . . .

6. The knowledge in unknowing

Is so overwhelming

That wise men disputing

Can never overthrow it,

For their knowledge does not reach

To the understanding of not-


Transcending all knowledge. [1]

John’s poetry is exquisite in its humility—knowing that he does not know, can never know, and doesn’t even need to know! He goes so far as to call this dark night “a work of His mercy, / To leave one without understanding.” [2] John’s teaching contains paradoxes that are difficult to absorb, but modern readers have the good fortune of many good translations, including that of Mirabai Starr. Like the other friends whose work I have shared this week, Mirabai knows the via negativa, the way of unknowing, personally and intimately, and describes what happens between the soul and God in the “dark night:”

The soul in the dark night cannot, by definition, understand what is happening to her. Accustomed to feeling and conceiving of the Beloved in her own way, she does not realize that the darkness is a blessing. She perceives God’s gentle touch as an unbearable burden. She feels miserable and unworthy, convinced that God has abandoned her, afraid she may herself be turning against him. In her despair, the soul does not recognize that God is teaching her in a secret way now, a way with which the faculties of sense and reason cannot interfere.

At the same time that the soul in the night of spirit becomes paralyzed in spiritual practice, her love-longing for God begins to intensify. In the stillness left behind by its broken-open senses and intellect, a quality of abundance starts to grow inside the emptied soul. It turns out that the Beloved is longing for union with the lover as fervently as she has been yearning for him. . . . God will whisper to the soul in the depth of darkness and guide it through the wilderness of the Unknown until it is annihilated in the flames of perfect love. [3]

[1] John of the Cross, “Stanzas Concerning an Ecstasy Experienced in High Contemplation,” The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Institute of Carmelite Studies: 1979), 718–719.

[2] John of the Cross, Collected Works, 719.

[3] Mirabai Starr, introduction to Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books: 2002), 20. [Richard Rohr: The best translation in my opinion.]

The Sonnets of Orpheus

Rainer Maria Rilke – from the Sonnets of Orpheus (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

“Plump apple, smooth banana, melon, peach, gooseberry… how all this affluence speaks life and death into the mouth.  I sense, observe it from a child’s transparent features while he tastes.  What miracle is happening in my mouth.  Instead of words, discoveries flow out from the ripe fruit, astonished to be free.  Dare to say what “apple” truly is, this sweetness, at first thick, dark, dense then, exquisitely lifted in your taste, grows clarified, awake, luminous, double-meaninged, sunny, earthy, real.  Oh knowledge… pleasure, inexhaustible!”

Greetings – It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, but life is about beginnings and endings and beginnings….and today felt inspired by this poem to post again. Here, Rilke, one of my favorite poets, invites us to imagine the unencumbered, child-like delight and intimate experience of being One with our senses. On one level, we find an ordinary, relatable vignette that can transport most of us to a time and place of our own sensual pleasures. Found myself reminiscing about a recent Autumn experience apple picking out on Long Island; such a treat. Spiritual connection with our body- sensual pleasures, sexuality, yoga and breath, kundalini to name a few- is a theme that I plan to include in more of my upcoming blogs.

There is beauty in meeting ourselves in the moment; sometimes this feels vulnerable, lonely, and filled with uncertainty. Though, I have learned that dropping out of the mind fixating on some thought or trying to create a way through, making decisions, trying to understand this or that – we are simply left with sinking into whatever arises in the moment. I’ve warmed to being alone with myself and trusting in all that is here right now. There is an exquisiteness to Being – and being One with the mystery of life unfolding. And as my blog, sub-title reminds…never not now.

Wishing anyone and everyone who is reading this much peace and happiness wherever you are in the world.

What happens IS your path

This is a repost from Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com)
November 17 at 2:54 PM ·


In reality, your world is set up so that nothing happens to you, but everything happens for you – for your awakening, for your growth, for your inspiration, for your exploration – even if you forget that, or sometimes cannot see it, or sometimes fall into distraction and despair.

When there is no fixed destination, you cannot ever lose your destination, so you cannot ever lose your path, so nothing that happens in your life can take you off your path. Your path IS what happens, and what happens IS your path. There is no other.

Everything is a gift on this unbreakable path that you call your life – the laughter, the tears, the times of great sorrow, the experiences of profound loss, the pain, the confusion, the times you believe you’ll never make it, even the overwhelming heartbreak of love – even if you forget that sometimes, or cannot see that sometimes, or lose faith absolutely in the entire show sometimes.

But even the loss of faith in the show is part of the show, and even the scene where ‘something goes wrong’ is not indicative of the show going wrong, and so you are always exactly where you need to be, believe it or not, even if you are not.

Life can be trusted absolutely, even when trust seems a million light-years away, and life cannot go wrong, for all is life, and life is all.

Understand this, know it in your heart, and spirituality is profoundly simple, as simple as breathing, as natural as gazing up at the stars at night and falling into silent wonder.

The universe is more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

– Jeff Foster

A few thoughts: Jeff Foster helps me name experiences and feelings that are hard to identify on my own. And when i read his poetry, something is stirred deep within that is beyond thought. His poetry warms me into deep acceptance of the complicated, sometimes messy path of life. I see his poems as pointers to Love.