by Constance Casey | Mar 21, 2023 | Musings
Did you know that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about 14,000 letters to various friends in his lifetime? And, it was not a long life. He lived to age 51. I happened across a book of some of his letters which in some parts included condolences to friends who had suffered a loss and found it quite helpful for being with my own friends.
My friends and clients experience loss and impermanence in many ways, and I sometimes find it hard to know what to say. So, I turn to Rilke who ponders and reaches out to say something kind, something wise, or something simply intimate and gentle from his own musings and reflections.
Here he is responding to a friend whose dog died, and he shares in a letter to her:
“To account for the duration of one of these small heart-star’s orbits is, of course, also an initiation into one’s own life, and even though these cheerful moons reflect the purest world-sun for us, perhaps it was their always averted side through which we were related to the infinite life-realm beyond.”
Rilke’s letter to Lou Andreas-Salome 1/21/1919
From The Dark Interval: Letters on Loss, Grief and Transformation Rainer Maria Rilke Translated and edited by Ulrich Baer
Recently, one of my sons spoke affectionately of our family dog and as having helped him develop a greater love for life. The way our dear pet looks at us, being here and attending, continually inviting in this very moment, lifts spirits seemingly lost. How we tend to ourselves and one another is what makes for either a wonderful life or a life of misery, and we do our best in this spectrum of attention.
Our pet’s unconditional warmth, continual loyalty, and quiet company feel like that realm of the numinous that we all share.
If a friend is troubled, I can speak from wisdom that flows from a place in my heart where we both meet. Rilke invites this from us through his example to say what is in our hearts and unmask the typical conventions of consolation.
Life includes both death and renewal which we can feel moving in us. Even today as the spring equinox comes to its apex, it also passes through and begins to fade to summer. In the dark interval of winter, there was deep resting. As the days of sunlight lengthen, the days of the dark interval fade away. A change comes in the springtime as a new rhythm calls out, extending a soft touch so the griefs and sorrows of today can receive new light.
Is it strange to call upon this knowing when one is experiencing loss? Might we do more than console the loss? Can we also share our knowing of this change, this deep strength that we each carry? Can we remind one another of this Power that moves in us already, receiving all that we are?
by Constance Casey | Apr 22, 2019 | Uncategorized
Start with being a good friend to yourself, and in that process, you establish a friendship with the world.
A friend to self rebukes self-will-run-riot, complains less, reviews means for noble causes as tasks required in themselves; holds no role to one’s bosom, but watches as desires of the heart vanquish in exquisite agony.
Let there be freedom to speak freely in truth.
Friends nurture tenderness and care for the honest appraisal of one’s own experience.
One must stand in one’s own shoes; refute the potential possession of another and know the undergirded nature of unity in one another. In knowing unity, stability is present for contrasting and assembling ideologies to evolve or collapse.
Do not fuel friendship where no alliance can be shared in values for the world’s good. Listen carefully for core values in the way of discourse and actions.
Allow patience to work in amongst the frequencies, wondering if comrades or accomplices shall meet or enmity shall rise up to deepen the discourse. Penetrate division with insight and release poor associations to the turbulence of the world’s spiraling schemes.
Whatever forms arise, see them as specters of nature within divine creation allowing for independent appraisal; not mine; allowing for breathing relations in the midst of discovery.
Explore one another, feel your predispositions, patterns, or assumptions jump like sumac in the fire, wipe the sparks from your pants knowing your palm will never be completely unstained.
True friends pick up after years of separation with little concern for disparate conditions or distance. A delicate understanding presents itself upon meeting again with interest and care.
Gems of perception shine an intelligence that faces melancholy, poverty or suffocating forms of oppression with freshness like opening a window to a vast view.
by Constance Casey | Jan 4, 2019 | Uncategorized
My father taught me to stand up straight, focus my eyes forward and make eye contact with other’s passing by, nod and say hello, basically, be polite. When we were out walking, he would often stop to chat about the weather or ask how someone was feeling, compliment them on their hairstyle or outfit, and wish them a nice day. These kinds of habits are still a part of me, and yet, these days I find it harder to meet anyone’s gaze. The information age and cell phone usage has hunched our shoulders, we have become stuck in a revolving door of notification and response, casting our eyes downward and not straight out.
How distracted are you by your device usage? Do you feel that if you are not looking at your phone you are perceived to not have a social life or be involved in important business? When riding the bus and looking out the window, do you see the sights pass by? Do you notice the person sitting next to you? What is your mood? What is your attitude? How deep is your breathing?
Many people I’ve spoken with feel alienated among their peers using cell phones in the midst of a social encounter. Studies show that when a cell phone is placed on the table during a meeting, people shorten their sentences, assuming they will be interrupted at any moment. Doesn’t this constant feeling of being undervalued cause problems? I’ve seen this happen so frequently now that I just had to write about it. The cell phone is warping our minds and hearts. Many people are more intimate with their cell phones than with their family and/or friends. I know we use it to connect, too. But, it can’t hurt to assess the relationship with your device.
So, here are some suggestions for bringing your attention somewhere else, try this and let me know how it goes:
- Put it away for several hours, maybe even a whole day and see what happens.
- Say hello to three people today when you are out and around town. Pocket your device, look them in the eye, stand up straight and genuinely wish them well.
- Take a digital message up a level, and ask to meet for a brief walk together.
- When driving, put it in your trunk and just drive. This could save your life or another’s.
- Write down the curiosities that drive you to use the phone. Post the list and visit it in a month. Were you able to live without satisfying those curiosities?
- If your device has a control method for screen-time, turn it on to limit your usage.
- When you meet with someone, ask that you both turn off your devices for the meeting and put them away. See if the quality of the interaction changes. Do you feel more valued? Are you able to provide more relaxed attention with your companion? How distracted are you to not have it by your side turned on for notices?
In my work with others who are dying, the things they recall as the most important memories in their lives were special interactions where they felt heard, they saw the glint of the sun light, felt the human touch of a hand, a hug, the warmth of that moment stayed with them more than any other moments in their lives. My last suggestion is to imagine how you will remember your interactions when you are on your deathbed. Will you remember people’s faces, their smiles or tears? Or will the screen be your strongest memory?
by Constance Casey | Aug 8, 2018 | Musings
Did you know that fire fighters fight fire with fire? I didn’t know that much about it until recently. My younger son has been working in Yosemite National Park, but was recently evacuated due to the smoke from the Ferguson Fire, which has burned approximately 100,000 acres of forestland. I listen to the daily reports on the fire because I may need to help facilitate bringing him home at any time. Two fire fighters were killed working the fire, in addition to dozens of injuries and buildings destroyed. The tall smoke columns going up each day are a huge hazard to those in the area. I have immense gratitude for folks working the fires, and my heart goes out for the loss of life and extended impact from these fires.
From listening to the daily updates, I have learned how fire fighters use all of the elements of fire, water, earth, and air to combat the blaze. To fight fire with fire, they drew a larger boundary around the fire and start firing from the boundary in toward the big fire. They watched the area change by removing fuel for the big fire. They used infrared cameras from helicopters, they used bulldozers to move earth and create a line where there was nothing for the fire to eat up. They dropped water skillfully to mop up areas that flared up in somewhat controllable spaces. They watched for changes in weather patterns and worked with lower air currents to move hot shots, (highly skill fire fighters) into position to set water lines, etc.
As I reflect on these strategies, I’ve been thinking about events in my own life and how to use these tactics as metaphors that can be applied for my practice and community. In particular, I want to discuss the wise use of fire.
Recently, a friend posted a fiery rant on my Facebook feed and I spontaneously deleted it. It felt like a spot fire that I needed to mop out in that location. Spending a day going back and forth via text on my Facebook wall would have just fed the fire. Instead, I invited him over for lunch and served him the best hot sandwich I could make. Then, we discussed the topic of his rant. We still do not totally agree, but I understand more where we are in accord and where we are not.
Wise use of fire is looking around the perimeter and being open for opportunities to discuss and clarify issues with others. It means preparing to sit down and have difficult conversations. It means breathing deeply; offering kindness when you’d rather go off on a rant too. It means using fire in a wise way for the long haul to contain the spread of hurt feelings. It means using wise boundaries to include more folks in the field. It means going outside of your normal clique and seeing whom else you can introduce yourself to. It means bringing willingness to stop for a moment and offer empathy to a fiery debate, to really listen. This is wise fire, and it works to extinguish the fires of unhealthy conflict by keeping a watchful eye and a caring heart.
Using wise fire energy takes time, skill and patience. One of the best tools for this process is meditation. If we know our own minds and how they operate we can be useful and not harmful. When it comes down to understanding one another, and taking the time to do that, exploring the situation now, I feel like we are actually putting out some uncontrollable fire. I am learning more each day about putting out fire with fire and/or other elements. It’s not like a real fire fighter facing life and death, but we can do this process with each breath, and with our creative capacity and heart.
How can we use our wise inner fire of the heart to provide a wide enough space for the fire in the nation to expend itself, learn and burn out? How can we be skillful in finding solutions to work together for change that reduces harm? How can we work with the situation as it is changing now? What big fires are happening in you? How can you carefully work with those fires?
There are many other huge fires breaking out all over the U.S. today. You can check:
We can all add our caring hearts to the process that many individuals are engaged in with courage and skill.
by Constance Casey | Sep 20, 2017 | Uncategorized
Last night was the first night of the “Growing Through Loss” support group series in Roseville, MN. The speaker, Ted Bowman, gave an overview of common misconceptions about grief:
a- That there is a right way to do it.
b- That there are predictable stages.
c- That there is closure.
d- That some people don’t grieve.
We all grieve. We all have some form of suffering in our lives, whether it is the loss of a physical capacity, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job. Life is not easy; we are all in some form of acceptance for working with our feelings and our lives.
We need to acknowledge our grief. While painful memories are difficult at times, they can help us come to terms with loss when we honor our grief process.
In my work with those in recovery, there is grief in letting go of addictive behavior and opening to life in a new way. Fear, sadness, anger and grief are feelings that we need to know. To find support for this process is a gift for our emotional health.
The group breaks out into a variety of specific small groups depending on death of a spouse, child, sibling or other issues. In this way, folks connect with those in similar circumstances and know they are not alone.
I’m grateful to be a part of the series and presenting on October 2nd, 2017. My talk will focus on being aware of the breath and the body, and how to find some openings in one’s grief process with breath awareness and body wisdom.