Since you are reading Sunflower Chalice, you’re noticing the new WordPress theme. It’s called “mondo-zen.” It seems every year in the summer I get the urge to change the theme on this blog. I left it alone last year, but this year I had to do it. The blog had gotten too “busy.” I had too many widgets, and it was fun to play around with them and keep up with what I was reading and what movies I was watching from Netflix, but like my life in general the blog had become, well, cluttered. It was time to do some spring cleaning. I had spent a good month or more away from my own blog here at the Sunflower due to a project with a ministers’ study group that also involved blogging. That caused me to focus on a paring down. I worked a simple theme with that blog in content and color and when I was able to return this blog, I knew the overstuffed closet atmosphere of the Sunflower Chalice was going to change. I will miss my rotating header and the photos I had there, but not too much. I am trying to be less attached. It’s time for electronic as well as spiritual pruning.
Last week our church staff went on a staff outing to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. I will be returning soon, and often. It is a refuge in the middle of the north Texas urban sprawl. I discovered that you can learn a lot by walking through a garden. You can learn a lot by both walking quietly and mindfully and sitting mindfully. You can also learn some interesting things from the signage.
I’ve always been drawn to waterfalls. There aren’t a lot of them where I’m from in central Massachusetts, but I have jumped off and over some of the ones that can be found – reckless and rather stupid from the perspective of my adulthood – but perspective is something a waterfall will give you when you travel around it. When I encountered this one in the constructed rainforest at the Botanic Garden’s massive greenhouse, I knew from my experience as a tourist at other falls such as Niagra that I wanted to get shot from the front and back. I spent time looking at the water fall from the front and then looking at it fall from the back and watching it blur the view of where I’d just been. How differently we see when something is in the way.
On the way to the Japanese Garden we had to pass the Rose Garden. The only time in life you are promised a rose garden is when you go to a rose garden. We skipped the roses that day to spend time, or actually suspend time in the Japanese Garden. Just being there was a zen expereince. I sat for a while.
I walked for bit, very slowly, as I in the last days of my heavy walking boot with my broken foot, and I even joked around about not being able to stay on the paved walk ways (because some of them were made out of wood). It was so peaceful we had to drag ourselves away to lunch and only because my healing broken foot was getting sore and tired and it was still a long walk back to the car. A healthy foot and there’s a good chance you’re not reading this and I’m still there living off the fish in the pond.
I loved this fountain. I reminded me of a baptismal font. I began to think of how UU Churches could incorporate moving water into sanctuary design. Water has such a calming effect. Some of our older churches still have big stone baptismal fonts. Some of these have been turned into sand recepticles for candles of joy and concern. We have fire in the chalice flame and candles of joy and concern. Water would make a nice elemental balance.
This sign about “cultivars” caught my attention. Some plants can’t survive without human intervention and attention. Hmmm. Reminded me a bit of congregations, human relationships, and human being in general. We just don’t do well in isolation and untended.
Whatever your path, it’s important to stay on it. Spirituality is a discipline. The spiritual life doesn’t “just happen.” I had my first meeting in over ten years with a spiritual director this past week. The last time I was in formal spiritual direction was in a specifically Catholic setting. Now I am a Unitarian Universalist and my spiritual director is a mainline Christian. We spent our first session getting to know each other. It’s hard sometimes, but you have be up front in Texas about where you’re coming from spiritually. We got along well and I am looking forward to journeying for a while with this person. I have had a difficult time this year making it to the zen sitting group I wanted to practice with here and this is renewing my energy to schedule my time around that as well. Getting settled in and then my broken foot really hampered my efforts in this area (not to mention that it’s an hour each way to the Maria Kannon Zen Center), but I am comitted to recommitting. I have never stopped sitting every day, I just haven’t been able to make it to a sangha or dokusan and it’s beyond time to get back.
I am taking my time with a thorough reading of the Tao Te Ching again for the first time since the early 1990s when I bought a copy upon arriving at divinity school. I read it while preparing for the UU Ministerial Fellowship Committee, but it wasn’t a soul reading, it was a content reading and with something like this, that really doesn’t count.
I am also reading Riding the Dragon: 10 Lessons for Inner Strength in Challening Times by Robert Wicks. Wicks has been one of my favorite spiritual writers since I heard him speak at an in-service training for Catholic high school teachers during my first year of teaching back in 1994-95.