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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

Holding Eternity in the Palm of Your Hand

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived in Hercules Road — a portrait by Thomas Phillips (1807)

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” ~William Blake~

My husband emailed me this William Blake quote this morning. We had been talking on our walk yesterday about Steindl-Rast’s view of prayer; how prayer is not just the humble mutterings of a longing heart, but unfolds itself in our ability to be truly in the moment of the life one is living; to see that there is giving and receiving in all of creation, in all actions. Both Blake and Steindle-Rast were writing about wholeness and they were talking about living prayer.

To contemplate the wholeness, connectedness and the oneness of life in a world that seems so fractured is not an easy asking. I have melt downs from time to time; overwhelms that cause me to withdraw and doubt; and then just like Persephone, I ascend again into spring. Much of my personal suffering has come from not honoring what is a natural ebb and flow in the grand scheme of things; from thinking that I should have arrived somewhere by now where there is no struggle, even while nature struggles all around me.  For all of us, what I believe is true, is that we are never as broken as we think.

Just on the horizon, eternity waits, and still the focus of life can become so much about petty concerns: who ticked you off, who you like and don’t like, the demands of earning a living, the traffic. The mediocrity of the world tugs at my sleeve, and like a dog that hears kibble being poured into its dish, I run toward the sound of it. It is easy to be caught up in the seeming importance of those things.  There is a silence between the notes of life’s song.  Is wholeness born of that quiet that causes us to linger upon a crocus pushing up through the cold soil of winter into spring? Life is so fast, too immediate and the rush to “get it all done” creates a forgetfulness of slow that seems the root of despair.

Those of us who become temporarily lost should get t-shirts to wear that say “Temporarily out of service.” That’s how I have felt the past few months, just temporarily out of service, but as in Blake’s quote, I began to see through the narrow chinks of my cavern. The heart opens and closes, opens and closes until one day it just blooms, and for a while you are in a garden. I say for a while because there is no destination point for awakening or awareness– it is unfolding until death. That’s what I am trying to learn right now—no destination point, just a constant process. Funny how I think that the rest of the world has this wired, but I know that you don’t have to scratch the surface too deep to see that we all suffer.

Healing lies in awakening from a life where everything is taken for granted. That’s the life-line for pulling oneself up from the sorrows and challenges that can paralyze. To live so fully, so mindfully in the moment that everything becomes a prayer; to count and name the blessings of each day and allow the heart to fill with gratitude. This is the balm for the “temporarily out of service.”

Today I am grateful to have a husband that emails me quotes by William Blake; to walk with a goofy yellow lab who knows joy and love most of the time; to have some quiet time in the morning to write my thoughts and send them out into the world; for hot black tea with honey; for a blue sky and the promise of 60 degrees this March day.  I am grateful for the inspiration of William Blake and I am grateful for my life.

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