Archive for June, 2010


I’ve been thinking about a theme for tonight’s Inner Work support group for women who have experienced breast and/or ovarian cancer.  We meet once a month and this is our fourth session.  The women have been quite patient with me as I both facilitate and participate.  The idea for the group came from a book by Jean Shinoda Bolen that I’ve found so helpful: “Close to the Bone”.  It offers reflections about how one can make meaning of a life-threatening illness and thereby allow the experience to be a life-transforming event.

We’ve been sharing about how to do “soul work” as a part of the healing journey.  Discovering “soul” in our lives is a project to which most of us give little thought.   We spend a lot of time researching the best treatment regimen, the perfect diet, the most skilled surgeon, the latest discoveries.  We undergo therapies that ravage our bodies and exhaust our energies in the hope of cure.  Many of us try to be attentive to the deeper realities of healing even as we pass through those dark valleys.  But on the other side of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, as the body recovers and we enter the new terrain of surveillance, there is still healing work to be done in the realm of the soul.

Shinoda-Bolen and others who have worked with cancer survivors encourage us to tend the soul as important ongoing therapy.  But how do we know soul when we see it?  One place we find the soul is in “kairos” time, the experience of time in which we can lose ourselves, the moments that can stretch to hours without our even noticing.  So what am I doing when I am prone to “lose myself”?  What transports me from being the slave of my Blackberry calendar app to being content to waste time noticing hummingbirds at the feeder or appreciating how green the elm leaves are against the blue sky?  Who am I with when the time flies?  What activities can absorb me so completely that I am surprised to discover that the sun has set?

Tonight we’ll take time to remember when we have experienced kairos time. Hopefully we’ll enjoy some of those moments together.  Maybe we’ll help each other discover how to find them again every day.  And guess what?  This healing strategy is for everyone- not just those of us who have had an encounter with a life-threatening illness.  Find your soul in some kairos time.


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A few weeks ago, before I left for travels to the midwest, I decided it was time to move the compost bin.  This is an annual event that is usually sparked by the need to have some compost to put on the garden.  It’s easier to access the best of the decomposed products of our kitchen by taking the bin apart and shoveling the contents to the new location than to try to dig it out of the little doors at the bottom that are overgrown with weeds.

The bin came apart without difficulty and then the fun began.  With the first turn of the shovel the compost-workers went scurrying in every direction.  This is no time for squeamishness.  I told the little critters that they were heading to a nice fresh (as fresh as a compost heap can be!) home and I gave thanks for their labors in every season to digest our peelings and coffee grounds.  It’s a nasty but necessary job, munching through the detritus of a household.  But if you’ve ever seen an active compost pile you know that there’s even a sense of delight in the process!  The grubs, worms, roaches and all the other microscopic heroes just do what they were created to do and in the process they turn our trash into treasure  

Shoveling through the layers seemed like a crude form of archeology. The top layers held the most recent additions to the pile- like the pineapple top from our Easter fruit salad.  The “harder-to-digest” pits and peels of avocados could have been from anytime.  The corn husks could have been Christmas tamales or last Labor Day’s corn-on-the-cob.

Finally I reached “pay-dirt”!  The rich black soil at the bottom of the pile that was ready to give my tomato and jalapeño seedlings the good start they need in the garden.  What a wonder!  Sister Paula Gonzalez has written about compost as an experience of “the paschal mystery”.  It is a witness to the life-death-new life cycle in which we believe.

Yesterday I planted the garden.  I prepared each little hole with a generous trowelful of compost before setting the seedling in place.  Last year’s cast0ffs will nourish this year’s new life. 

The process of composting also keeps me aware of the blessings that can be discovered from a reflective life.  Digging through the experiences of past days, weeks and months can yield a rich harvest.  It’s not always pretty but if I keep digging there are usually some wonderful revelations!

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