Mary’s Fiat

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The winter season shifts – morning, day, dusk, and evening each reminds us of life as sacramental. Life extends toward us the gifts of this moment as we join the rhythm of the universe ebbing and flowing. This rhythm draws us to itself, reminding us that time is not linear- taking us from here to there-; time is a spiral, moving us in cycles of renewal, growth, release, and tranquility.

As I anticipate the divine light of advent and Christmas, I am in awe of Mary’s fiat – her self-emptying, egoless ‘yes’. I see her humility as a beautiful gift to the world and her act of faith as a young woman holding divine mystery – a manifestation of divine co-creation, and Love. Mary, truly full of grace, follows her heart’s way of knowing, at no small personal cost then, and of course, later. She wholly/holy surrenders to divine creation – a ‘wonderous act of faith’.

Did Mary know? Did she hold the quiet confidence that all would be well? Did she listen to her secret heart? Did motherhood deepen her sense of her own miraculous be-ing? I hope that her act of faith brought her these graces and more. Could she have possibly known that all that dwelled within her would blossom into a future graced with love -a love that would redeem the world?

That is what faith in advent evokes in me now. Nothing can truly prepare me for this act of Love so profound in its sacred simplicity – its egoless spaciousness – it fully opens the hearts of all who receive it; Mary’s stunning act of faith!

As a family, we honor this unfolding as we sit together each night and light the advent wreath candles, share a reading, and sit in easy silence together. Our hearts and minds open to the inner Divine which reminds us that hope is a very real force that can change our lives for the better and the world around us. Hope inspires us with notions of possibility. It opens us to wonder, and invites our desire to create. In Hope, we wonder, we seek answers, we risk to become whole … we dare to love!

“Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light” Jan Richardson

Blessed are you

who bear the light

in unbearable times,

who testify

to its endurance

amid the unendurable,

who bear witness

to its persistence

when everything seems

in shadow

and grief.

 

Blessed are you

in whom

the light lives,

in whom

the brightness blazes–

your heart

a chapel,

an altar where

in the deepest night

can be seen

the fire that

shines forth in you

in unaccountable faith

in stubborn hope

in love that illumines

every broken thing it finds.

 

AND WE PRAY

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As Advent begins, I look forward to creating an advent wreath. I take solace in this ritual of an evergreen circle holding candles of purple and rose. I am drawn to the spreading of light as we illuminate more candles each week we move closer to Christmas. For me, the wreath feels ancient, connected and sacred; it is a sacred gift to imagine ways that I, my husband and daughter might enter into a nightly process of lighting a candle and praying.

It is my sense that our prayer expresses our deepest reality and offers us a potential experience of deep well-being and belonging. Still, it is not a facile process to gather from our separate activities and join each other in a mutually agreeable moment of prayer. It is my dearest hope for us that we meet in a moment of sincere and mutual desire for “we know not what”. That which draws us beckons us to gather together so small before the mystery of life, and reach toward a relationship with the ground of all Be-ing or Love.

Our nightly candle lighting and prayer together provokes and generates real intimacy – a quiet moment to know the heart of things. Practicing intimacy begins with creating space to be in contact with our inner self and each other. Be-ing in touch with self enriches and energizes our ability to give or share self beyond the moment. So, the sacred gathering ritual around our advent wreath connects us to our deepest human experience where Love is present to us. It seems that when and where we are most present, Love too is most present.

So, we pray from the very center of the heart of our be-ing. And we pray that creating this sacred space, these sacred moments together will deepen our sense of divine grace in us, with us and through us.

 

Drawing Me Forward

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What a great laudable exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life. We pray so as to discover what we already have—the incomparable treasure hidden in the field of the world and of the human heart.   St. Claire of Assisi

Autumn is a rich and textured season of nature’s colorful transitions often referred to as fallow time. I always visit my parents’ resting place and adorn their grave with autumn flowers and other symbols of fall’s harvest. It is a peaceful ritual of each season for me and especially poignant in the beauty of autumn. Now that both of my parents have passed, I truly appreciate the metaphorical gifts of fall as they present themselves to me. I now come to understand more closely the deep ways my parents entered the fall of their lives. The wisdom with which they met their physical diminishments and embraced each day as the gift of be-ing alive.

From this place where I stand, I experience the interior movement and wisdom of Love’s infinite energy drawing me forward. I am aware of my parents as an integral part of Divine Love  beckoning me onward and it is a profoundly hopeful experience. This inner way of knowing and feeling the eternal nature of Love lends a meaning and pleasure to adorning the heart stone that symbolizes their time here with each other and me. It becomes a sacred ritual for me – an affirmation of presence : what was, what is and what will be evermore.

And so it is that now in this moment in the silence of my heart I give thanks for the gift of this day and pray for the life of the world…

Bless to me my days as I seek new ways to know You dwelling in the map of my heart. Bless to me my belief, guiding me beyond the ways of the self toward the rich mystery of your Love. Bless me with wisdom as I attend to my journey and the seasons of my life as labyrinthine paths of daylight and darkness – yearning for my own unfolding, and eternally longing to be drawn forward to You.

“For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul and body, clad in the Goodness of G*d, and enclosed.”   Julian of Norwich

 

An Old Irish Sweater

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June 1st is my maternal grandmother’s birthday – nana to me. Coincidentally, and unbeknown to me as I named my son Justin, it is also the Feast of Saint Justin. The serendipity of these details in life is hugely appealing to me and generates a strong sense of kinship. A sense of belonging that transcends the linear measurement of life and provides a wonderful sense of the eternal in, through and with my relationships.

As a committed contemplative, I contemplate daily where I sense a similar feeling of kinship. As I begin contemplating, I hear in the quiet the wind against the windows, birds in the trees, the wind chimes outside; and then, the sound of my own inward and outward breathing. It seems to whisper Yaweh – ya on the inhalation and weh on the exhalation. My body awaits -resting in silence, and I unite with my heart’s language of love radiating – expanding like an echo in a cave. I have the sense of image and presence, an infusion of Spirit, connection …and I open to receive it.

I feel a profound sense of gratitude. I experience a strong sense of consolation that tempts me to cling and again, I let go and hold it lightly. I notice that my breathing tempo slows ‘my whole self’ down. I notice that I feel at peace. I notice that I feel open to all that might unfold. I notice that my mind occasionally tries to get in on the action and as I gently accept that and return to whispering ‘Yaweh’ and breathing, the sense that all is well expands within me.

At the heart of the experience of contemplation is really a language of silence that is somewhat indescribable but known. I feel at rest, that I am being gently held and cared for. I have a big desire to enter deeper into that gentle embrace like snuggling into my nana’s Irish sweater. It becomes like a mantel lovingly worn by one who has gone before me that nestles around me as if to say … Be still and rest here where we will mind you and be in you, through you and with you. I notice that at such moments time is irrelevant – almost liminal.

Come away to a secret place and rest for a while  Mark 6:31

 

The Narrative Spirals

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Through the community of women disciples, love’s unending mystery continues to co-create in willing hearts.   I firmly believe that human history spirals and has a direction. The direction is meant to be the increase of love-justice in the world. ‘The spiral represents a true revolution (from the word “to revolve”); a turning around, a turning from, a turning toward and a turning on.’ It is divine creation unfolding through us with us and in us – everywhere, all the time. This co-creative energy informs people’s lives as gospel narrative everywhere in every moment. In my own work with Reiki, I increasingly feel connected – specifically, to women of faith and wisdom – as a companion to those in need of loving presence. And I feel infused with a sense of spirit that unites me to Ephesus and beyond.

I experience the grace and gift of this feminine thread of embodied spirit in my encounters as a hospice volunteer. In my capacity as a Reiki trained volunteer, I am often invited to accompany patients who find peace and solace in Reiki. Presently, I work with two patients who request these treatments. It is an extraordinary experience to spend a half an hour or more silently be-ing with someone, resting your hands on this person and holding sacred space together. I am in awe of the patient’s trust and confidence in my presence, and moved beyond words by the beauty of the surrender the patient models by moving deeper into the spirituality of life’s diminishments. In each instance, the diminishment travels a distinct course. Yet, in each instance, the patient encounters calm, serenity and peace for the moments that we are together in silent, sacred touch.

Yesterday, as I returned to my car I sat still and wondered inwardly how I might ever learn to hold this amazing gift. I feel a great reverence for these patients as holy teachers. It is an awesome thing to quietly hold presence in this way. It reflects a reality that our world typically averts. In my heart, I sense a powerful communion with the women who have gone before me in these moments. I feel the sacred energy of love itself as it flows in me, from me and to me.

 

Contemplation in Practice

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I am drawn to silence and contemplative prayer as an intimate and deeply fulfilling relationship with Divine presence and mystery. I find peace more and more as I faithfully and freely offer myself to silence as ‘be-ing’ present with the ground of all being. This experience deepens and magnifies when I share in silence with others – vulnerability is shared when silence is shared. I invited others to form a contemplative practice circle with me in my area. The people who participate in the practice circle with me also seem to long for the gifts of silence, centering prayer and other silent prayer practices dedicated to the sacramental nature of being present to Divine mystery. Recently, I spoke to them about the practice to appreciate their reflections on silence and contemplation.

Some said that the appeal of the practice is the gift of sitting quietly within a group and creating inner space for the Divine. Others affirmed that and expanded on it by sharing that daily life felt steadier, more grounded when they sustained an inner intention to attend to relationship with presence. A relationship that feels more precious when shared with others in the gathering. Someone opined that the group silence punctuates and expands a strong feeling of our interconnectedness that has a healing quality to it. This really resonated for all of us as we acknowledge that this quiet centering time spent in contemplative prayer, alone or as a group, binds us all more strongly together into Divine presence.

Several people in the group have been devotees of Centering Prayer through the Father Keating method and shared the experience as the connecting point to a sense of an eternal inner Self where G*d dwells.  Another shared the sense that the most powerful aspect of Centering Prayer is what Father Keating calls the central and vital piece – beginning prayer by offering one’s consent to be present and open to G*d in mind, heart and spirit, and to G*d’s presence and action within. It teaches us the language of G*d – silence. It is an exercise of faith, hope, and love.

We moved on to talk about our ups and downs in our contemplative sittings. We seemed to agree that it is good to habitually turn our wandering minds to the present moment. We also agreed that it is best not to expect contemplative prayer sessions to be perfect – the most important thing is showing up each day to be in the silence of G*d’s presence. One experienced and more mature contemplative in our group shared that she gradually sees areas where her heart can open more fully as she comes to know G*d as total, unconditional love and basks more and more in that love. As the years of centering prayer accumulate, she senses that her consciousness is being transformed.

Still other members of our group embrace a more Buddhist approach to silence through meditation and experience this practice as mindful presence – an awake, accepting, spacious awareness. Contemplation is to witness, observe the ‘contents of mind’ without getting caught up in them, feeding them, resisting or chasing them, or identifying with them. The myriad gifts of silence are the awakening to presence.

Interestingly, many observed the absence of silence in church worship, as they know it. Most wished to create more sacred space and time for the gifts of silence in church worship as an experience of G*d’s invitation to us. As we hold silence, we ultimately listen to G*d dwelling in holy presence and we practice holy listening – blessings that invite sacred listening and appreciation of sacred presence.

And so contemplation for us is a ministry and prayer practice of presence. A few members in the group really wanted to stress that for them, the contemplative appeal is a humble, monastic-like longing for a life of service, prayer and simplicity – utilizing and sharing one’s gifts, anonymously to co-create sacred community. We are blessed to be the recipients of the mystery and mercy of Love through with, and in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Silence

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Richard Rohr suggests that, “ As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence.” Most of my religious upbringing and training taught prayer through words. Whether it was a morning prayer or an evening prayer, it was normally expressed through language; and at that, memorized language. I was trained in a way that suggested that the gateway to a relationship with the divine was provided to me by religious language that people who were ‘in with God’ would try and provide to me. And, I am sure that this early training provided a kind of scaffolding to orient me toward an established path of dialogue and liturgy with God. Then, one day, something shifted for me – inwardly – rendering what I experienced outwardly through religion less fulfilling. A sort of restlessness expanded within me nudging me toward a relationship with God best found in silence.

Initially, entering silence was difficult it was hard to settle my busy mind and almost frightening in contrast with the noise and distraction of my daily life. Yet, an inner longing provided me the wisdom and patience to practice silence and increase my tolerance for detaching from the busyness of my mind and my life. Over time, I have reached a new kind of experience with silence. Now, I find that there is a rhythm to silence and I experience silence as a spaciousness of being.

Silence as the space beyond all language draws me deeper into a sense of peace and connectedness. As I learn to dwell more often and more comfortably in this essential place of inward being, my outward experience seems to be enhanced by a kinder, more compassionate sense of life. I embrace the idea that this prayer practice nourishes my soul which in turn replenishes my heart and my presence in the world.

Circles of Trust

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These past few weeks have been very busy ones. My training as a Spiritual Director has taken me to several extended weekend retreats. The past three weekends and the one ahead are steeped in working with others – mostly strangers- to create spiritual community. I am just beginning to internalize this precious work with silence and spirit, soulful conversation and community. These days have been rich; gathering in this way in the autumn – often considered fallow time- is inspiring. The weather, nature itself and the respectfully crafted rhythm of the days on retreat, work on my inner world like waves gently caressing the shore. They bring with them slow and significant evolution and change as well as, a natural softening and yielding to emerging energies.

I am in real awe of this work as I both engage in it as a participant, and ponder my own potential to fully give myself to it. It is in light of the beautiful way those who gather heartfully join the process that I connect with the hope nestled within and among us. Entering into community with intrepid sojourners able to willingly work through, with and in spirit moves me beyond words. We gather in acknowledgement of our own imperfection and encounter the mystery and mercy of Love. Spirit and Love are offered and received despite our faults and weaknesses. As a result, we emerge more open and better able to bring what we have tasted to an imperfect world.

And so I return to the ebb and flow of my own daily life with renewed energy and hope that by giving my gifts to this work, I may expand my capacity to love more of this imperfect world. Perhaps, it is imperfection that invites me to serve as a kind of mid-wife to an unconditional Love that is really needed in the world.

Tend Your Garden

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“ ~ live and respond to grace in the here and now. … Listen closely. … Don’t cultivate someone else’s garden. Grow where you are planted.”   ~St. Francis de Sales

~ Sage counsel to anyone who seeks to hear and to learn with an open mind and an open heart. Simple notions;there are no involved, complicated steps to pursue – just a straightforward commitment to yourself. Through a clear attitude of trust within yourself, you will be able to find the grace and the wisdom to grow moment by moment. Whatever comes your way, therefore, offers you an opportunity to learn and deepen your roots. That is, if you can simply cultivate this openness to receive whatever comes to you.

While I know in my heart that this is the way to inner peace, I still struggle to accept that I can grow in grace by simply be-ing present. My religious upbringing has steeped me well in notions of elaborate rituals and acts of penance as the vehicles for finding grace. Implicit in these things I am required ‘to do’ is the underlying idea that, ‘as I am’, is not enough. Thus, I hold a sense that I must work hard to achieve grace and I disdain and regret my flaws and weaknesses.

Can I just ‘be’? Can I come ‘as I am’? Can I open myself ever wider and fall ever deeper into the Source of all that is? Can I trust that presence? Can I let go more completely? Can I allow for the possibilities?

My heartful , seeker’s response is: YES

And so it is that I hope to seed and cultivate my garden. May I nurture responsiveness to the present moment; may I listen to learn more closely the language of silence; may I unfold toward all that is.

“Silence appears at the moment when we position ourselves at the very source of being.”  Raimon Panikkar

So that nothing may be lost….

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I find myself dwelling in the way my attention brings me to awareness, to witness  the many gifts of my life. It seems evident that the closer I attend to the present moment, the clearer the gifts of grace become. And so it is that I notice that as I give my attention to things interior, an intention toward a deeper reality a, more expansive, integrated way of knowing, evolves from the depths of the interior. In a way, my attention generates the space for my intention by opening me toward it. And as my intention grows clearer and stronger in the silent presence and reality of my interiority, it in turn, enriches, expands and directs my attention. All of this leads me to a greater place of awareness from where I glean the interconnectedness of me, others, life and creation. And so, I endeavor to attend ever more fully to this way of knowing as my intention strengthens through the nurturing presence of my attention. Nothing is lost as it is gathered and woven more intimately into my be-ing.