Monday, March 11, 2013

Veriditas II ...

A person who toils more than her body can bear
is rendered useless in her spirit
by ill-judged roil and abstinence.
Living hopelessly and joylessly, that person's sense often fails.

Hildegarde of Bingen

Hi everyone...  Last spring, I wrote a blog post on self-care called, Veriditas. At the time, I understood veriditas to mean the greening force of spring but I was far from comprehending the depth and power of the concept.

This year, after almost twelve months of reading about Hildegarde of Bingen (an amazing German abbess who, at a time in the 1100's when few women could read, was an early feminist, ecologist, herbal healer, poet, playwright, mystic, and composer) and after a month-long mandala retreat based on her writings, I have a much deeper understanding of both the woman and her veriditas. And I think she has much to say to those of us who have become desiccated and arid (ariditas) through caring for others while not caring so well for ourselves.

The verse above, taken from one of Hildegarde's letters, is a perfect description of my own state in the last weeks of my husband's life. I was physically exhausted, my spirit was dry through roiling turbulence and abstinence from the things that might have kept me moist, juicy and verdant. I felt little hope or joy, and as many will tell you, my sense - common or otherwise - was definitely failing.

Hildegarde saw veriditas as that life force which unifies all of life. She was most interested in the sense of life, radiance, vitality and aliveness in all creatures. She saw veriditas as the green sap that makes life possible. As author, Christine Painter, writes:

This green fluid, that is the source of life, is hidden below the earth, in the the roots of things waiting to burst forth in springtime with newness. Rain elicits this response. Hildegarde believed that humans draw forth this same green sap into our beings through the breath and the soul. The breath is the animating force, drawing in moisture and life.

Though Hildegarde was, of course, bound by the "science" and theology of her times, there is still great wisdom in many of her ideas. Let's try to apply some of them to our own lives:

Imagine where in your life you experience the dryness of ariditas. Where do you encounter complete lack of nourishment or anything to sustain you? Does any part of you resonate with this notion of barrenness and desiccation? Where have you become depleted in yourself and in your service to others? (Be sure to hold these dry and arid places with the utmost gentleness and compassion. This is not a time for judgement or self-criticism.)

Then, breathe the moist and verdant energy of veriditas into your body, your mind, your emotions and your spirit. Allow it to fill your being with life-giving greening power. Then exhale, letting go of all the dryness and releasing its hold on you. Do this for several minutes.

Now, allow yourself to consider these three questions for reflection adapted from Christine Painter:

1.  Where in your life do you experience the greatest dryness or ariditas?
2.  Where is the greening of life most abundant for you? What are the things which bring you most alive and in connection with the greening life force at work in the world?
3.  Could you make some time to immerse yourself in one of these activities, or some small aspect of it, this week?

As you can see, veriditas isn't just a reflection of the greenness of nature, it is reflective of the very state of our true, authentic selves. We each have the capacity to bring forth new life just as the earth brings forth greenness. Becoming more aware of the quality of greenness of the earth helps us to see where in our aridity we need new growth.

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