from Richard Hendrick (Brother Richard) in Ireland, March 13, 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise, you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet, the sky is no longer thick with fumes, but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi, people are singing to each other across the empty squares.
Keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighborhood, So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way, with empathy and compassion.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality — To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To love.
So we pray and we remember that –
Yes there is fear. But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation. But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying. But there does not have to be selfishness.
Yes there is sickness. But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death. But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
The birds are singing again, the sky is clearing, spring is coming, And we are always encompassed by love.
Open the windows of your soul.
And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, Sing.


What Is This? Powerful Poem Worth Contemplating….

This is a poem by Mariangela Gualtieri that circulated widely in the social networks (and in print) in the past few days in Italy –in its simplicity it seems to have struck a collective chord – spoke how deeply the desire for change moves both though apocalyptic imagery and a longing for deep renewal. Here is a translation into English. 
(courtesy of Stephen Aizenstat)
This I meant to say
that we had to stop.
We knew it. We all felt it
that it was too furious
our doing. Our being with things.
All of us outwards.
Agitating every hour – to make it yield.
We had to stop
and we could not.
Should have done it together.
Slowing the race.
But we could not.
No human effort 
could make us do it.
And since this
was a common unspoken desire
like an unconscious will
perhaps our specie has obeyed
and loosened the chains
that bind our seed. Opened
The most secret cracks
Allowed entrance.
Perhaps this is why there was a leap
From one specie to another – from the bat
To us. Something in us wanted to give way.
Perhaps. I do not know.
Now we stay home.
What is happening is uncanny.
and there is gold, I believe, in this strange time.
There may be gifts. 
Golden nudgets for us. If we help each other.
There is a strong call
of the specie now and as a specie now
we ought to think of ourselves. A common destiny 
binds us here. We knew it. But not so well.
Either all or none.
The Earth is powerful. Alive, for real.
I feel her thinking with a thought
that we ignore.
What about our present plight? Let us consider
whether she might be the one moving things.
And whether the law that governs
the whole universe, and even what happens now, 
might not be a full expression of that law
that rules us also – like any star – like any cosmic particle.
What if the dark matter was this, 
this sort of holding together of all things 
in an ardour of life, with death the sweeper coming
to rebalance each specie, in order
to keep it within its own measure, its proper place,
Guided. We have not made the sky.
A powerful wordless voice
tells us now to stay home, like children
who have really blown it, without knowing why
and will not have kisses, no hugs.
Each now forced to restrain,
bringing us back, perhaps, to the slowness
Of the old foremothers.
To look at the sky more often,
To paint a corpse with ocre. To bake bread 
well. To look at a countenance carefully. 
To sing slowly in order to lull a child to sleep. 
For the first time to hold another’s hand, 
To feel with force the connection.
As one organism. We bear the whole specie 
Within. Within we save it.
And to that shaking
Of a palm with someone else’s palm,
To that simple act that is now to us forbidden
we  shall return, I think, with wider understanding
We shall be here with greater care. More delicate
our hand will be within the making of our lives.
Now that we know how sad it is
to stay a meter apart.



Inquiring Deeply Newsletter, March 2020


This cartoon beautifully illustrates a central predicament of the human condition:     each of us is painfully constrained by underlying assumptions that we do not see.   What we do not recognize, we also cannot question or change.  

What we are blind to in ourselves is the limiting boundary of our freedom.  

The cartoon cage may be interpreted as representing the carapace of “ego identity”:  our concepts of who we think we are; who we are afraid we are; what we are invested in having, doing, and being; and who we think we are supposed to be and/or are striving to become.  The limiting personal enclosure for each of us is constructed from these autobiographical themes,  which derive from how we were related to by family and others during our early development. 

In psychological terms, we can further see this bird as trapped in the prison of its own defenses:  its need to cling to what is familiar in order to preserve some experience of safety within a familiar world.    Though in some sense a cage is safe – think of the crates used for puppy training—  this strategy precludes us from discovering the world beyond the cage: the universe of other possibilities.

That people cling to things that make them unhappy may be the source of all of our troubles, but this tendency can be – unfortunately – difficult to change.  As I have explained and unpacked elsewhere,  problems live in the matrix of our relationships with others**.   This is where we can look most effectively if we want to disentangle the knots of feelings, personality, and core beliefs that keep us trapped.   

While it may be true, as the title of the Buddhist book says, “No Self, No Problem”***,  trying to “let go” in order is seldom of lasting help.  “Let it be” is better advice, but this too is easier said than done.  Nonetheless, it is useful to recognize that the freedom we seek is actually not outside our actual experience. 

In the words of the 20th century mystic and philosopher G.I. Gurjieff,

The more clearly you can see the situation
Feel your way into the situation
Articulate what you feel
Put words to your experience
The more real it becomes
The more real YOU become


*title adapted from paper by Brandschaft, B. et.al. (2010) in Towards an Emancipatory Psychoanalysis, Routledge Press NY**

Schuman, M. (2017)  Mindfulness-Informed Relational Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis: Inquiring Deeply. Routledge Press, NY

 ***Thubten, A.   (2009)  No Self No Problem   Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY.