CONSOLATION

Standard

If you look up the word consolation in the dictionary you will come across a definition that most likely reads something like what follows here. Consolation -comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment; a person or thing providing comfort to a person who has suffered. Suggested synonyms are: solace, sympathy, compassion, commiseration, empathy; relief, help, support, moral support, encouragement, reassurance. Hmmm, that just about covers the myriad ways I feel as I search for Easter in me and enter Eastertide – one of my favorite times of the year.

I love that Easter – like Christmas – is a time and place in the Christ story where the presence, life, witness and wholehearted openness of the women disciples is central to what transpires. They are not the only places in the gospels where women are vital but they are the only places where the centrality of the feminine spiritual thread is undeniable, inarguable and inherent to the truth of what unfolds.

It is easy to be with all of the Mary’s at the tomb as they pour themselves out in grief weeping the kind of tears that exhaust and deplete one. And, it is glorious to imagine how it was for Mary when she hears him, recognizes him and turns from within, surrendering herself to the awesome truth and weeping anew. This crying is like spring rain – it replenishes and refills all that is. This weeping is as the birthing waters of her soul as she enters through faith and unknowing into a unitive experience of G*d. It is precisely her desolation and bereft heart that readies her for her consolation and the healing balm and wholeness that are alive in the sacrament of Love. ‘Resurrected life is transcendent life, breaking through our partial selves into a new wholeness of belonging.’ Ilia Delio

Mary’s turning from within to see and to know that Love is stronger than death is what makes her the Apostle to the Apostles. “Mary Magdalene, may we be anointed with the gift of spiritual love that is wine and fragrance, and may the name of the Savior spoken with love be a spreading perfume which draws us to the royal banquet, for the nourishment, healing, and liberation of all humanity.” 

It is so lovely, and so natural that she would be the one to illuminate this spiritual knowing that leads to nurturing the love of God within us and among us. She surrendered her broken heart allowing it to burst – and burst it did – wide open. She enters the flow of power with by giving away, by sharing, by letting go, encountering an infinity of trust and mutuality found in the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“It’s risky,” said experience.

“It’s pointless,” said reason.


“Give it a try,” said the heart.

 

Now And Always

Standard

January 12th is the anniversary of my mom’s passing. It is five years now since she died. I am struck still by what a huge shift it is to lose your mother. The first home sound we come to know after forming under her beating heart for nine months,

Henry Nouwen says, “Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.” Wise words. Perhaps this accounts for why I feel my mother’s spiritual presence always as I live forward without her physical presence.

My mom was a devotee of the rosary. I find myself meditating with a rosary and speaking from my heart as I hold the small circles of mystery that comprise a rosary. It has become my way of connecting with prayer beads more closely. I find rote prayers are repeated in ways that, for me, dispel the sense of presence in the meditation.

In celebration of my mom’s spirit, I share here the prayer that I whispered to Mary on the fifth anniversary of mom’s passing:

Mary full of love, faith, grace and hope;

Christ breathes in you, with you and through you – Be with me now

Blessed are you in your capacious heart and sacred are you to women through the divine spirit of your be-ing;

Holy Mary, pure of heart and spirit – Be with me;

Willing co-creatrix in the divine plan – Strengthen me;

Guide me beyond the brokenness that binds me;

Now and always until I enter into the fullness of time.

The Narrative Spirals

Standard

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.

 

The Road To Ephesus Part II

Standard

Miriam walks out of her wounds after the violent death of her son and the awesome experience of encountering the empty tomb and begins her life anew. She is a woman in midlife who has endured the heartbreaking loss of her son dying violently before her. This must have so bereft her that she – like any of us – died with him and then labored to become someone who could sojourn on. This woman of dynamic faith entered through this moment into a process of suffering transformation. With sacred time, she eventually emerged from her heartward retreat with a fullness of being that graced her as a guardian of life and creation. Spiraling forward out of her deep connection to the ground of all being, she graced the world around her with spiritual values of love, serenity and service – wisdom’s gifts that keep on giving. These gifts would have evolved to create in Miriam the kind of mature woman who has the ability to tell the truth and the relational skills to be heard. As an apostle, her qualities would have been unsurpassed as powerful abilities to usher into being a new worldview.

So, Miriam withdrew to Mount Zion where she went inward and spent time with herself – doubtless weary of this world. In time, she propelled outward to connect – re-connect with the apostles through her return journey to Bethany. Firmly respected and honored for her faith and wisdom, she completed her life as gospel narrative by practicing resurrection in her heart and travelling onward to Ephesus. All the while continuing to serve as a role model of wonderment and an exemplar of Christ’s message of love and redemption. Her personal journey of spiritual growth grounded as it was in her courage, her steadfastness and her faith must have invited countless spiritual encounters and holy moments with the apostles who loved her and the community of women who companioned her. It is hard to imagine that anyone came to comprehend the notion of repentance (change of heart) as closely as Miriam. Nor anyone who lived more profoundly entering G*d’s quiet and telling out G*d’s stories of worlds within worlds.  And the world within her becomes a larger and larger spiraling space where G*d and all creation dwell.

And so it is not surprising that so many in the world pay homage to her or that Christianity sought to package her as a spiritual archetype for women – the heart of the feminine divine though less relevant than her son. Sadly, the more the idea of her expanded, the more distant the divine reality of her became. And so, the powerful, fierce, endlessly compassionate, enduring love and constancy of this humble Jewish woman of profound faith became bound by the initiatives of organized religion. Bound in an effort to fossilize her revolutionary love for the wild soul and her wisdom language of the sincere heart and soul.

This is how I hold Miriam in my heart, how I humanize her, how I untie, unbind her, and all women. I encounter her as a real woman who suffered, lost, and lost and lost – like so many women in this world. And then, she retreated into herself world-weary until such time as she was healed enough to emerge and live her life soul first as part of creation and the endless spiral of love. Her courage teaches me that our tears are the birthing waters of our souls and serve as mighty rivers that create new life and impel us somewhere, somewhere good, somewhere better…. These are the spiritual gifts and lessons beckoning to be learned through one woman’s life as gospel narrative, through one woman’s journey – the road to Ephesus.

The Intimacy of a Death

Standard

I recently trained to serve as a hospice volunteer. I felt drawn to the idea that nobody should be alone in life’s demise and even more there is something profoundly spiritual in death that beckons witnessing. And so it is that I experienced the death of my first hospice patient recently. Nothing could prepare my heart for all that would touch it, speak to it, move it and expand it.

My time with my hospice patient lasted about ten weeks. She was quite old and had been in care for years. She shared a room with three other people. From the moment I met her, took in her circumstance and began my companioning of her, my heart recognized her resilient spirit. Her diminishments – mental capacity and hearing – made typical paths of communication challenging and midway through our time together she declined further rendering our only way to communicate to touch.

In that moment, she became my teacher. I entered into be-ing with her in ways that we are mostly oblivious of in life. I would take her hand, massage cream into it and speak with her about how I imagined her life through her beautiful hands. I would also smooth cream on her face and soothe her brow. When she tried to speak, I would reassure her and calm her with touch letting her know I was right there with her. She shared her anxiety with her eyes so I would gaze into her eyes and hold her there. Nothing could prepare my heart for this intimacy between two women who had been strangers in all ways but our hearts.

Touch became our companioning vehicle in the sacred space of death’s vigil, the unspoken language of touch that she helped me learn was love at work between us, through us and among us. This was truly self-emptying love and its intensity expands the waiting heart in ways that escape words.

The first shall be last… thee who want to lead must serve…” Now I see how she who was last in this world, became first and I learned how to lead by serving – by be-ing present and open to the encounter. In her strained moments as she faded, I soothed her brow, spoke soft words of encouragement and mirrored mutual spirit – hers and mine. Love’s powerful presence offered safety and dignity as together we ‘bore the eternal mystery’.  And G*d grew with us, in us and through us. Somehow, I believe that the intimacy of presence made it possible for her to let go, to change – to re-mem-ber. As I left her and kissed her goodbye I said: “Remember that you are love and now you are returning to love.”

The world sees hospice as demanding, depleting work. But I know that the intimacy of connection that she allowed me expanded my heart’s capacity for compassion and unity. I know that her gifts to me outweigh my humble gifts of time visiting her.

 

The Community of Women

Standard

Holy week is a time when I return to my deep desire to honor the women disciples; a humble group of women who donated their time, service, compassion and means to a way of be-ing that took root in their hearts and minds. Most people don’t really think of this community of women as a significant piece of the Easter story. Like so many women, they gave what they had and accepted community in return for it and held it in their hearts and hands where it lingers as a blessing for all of us, still.

I want to acknowledge a lasting emblem of one such woman’s love and spirit in my local community – a needlework shop owner who initiated a knitter’s circle after receiving a prayer shawl. The comfort, joy and love the shawl brought to her inspired her to lend her own talents to co-creating prayer shawls with others in her community. And so she drew others to work with her in starting a prayer shawl ministry and when she became ill, they began knitting at her home. They became witnesses of her awesome dignity in facing her illness. And when she succumbed – resting under her prayer shawl – the women in her small circle were inspired to continue gathering and knitting in honor of all they had shared through and with her.

In listening to the knitters in this group it is abundantly clear that these knitting fingers are deftly sowing powerful seeds of love. Seeds nurtured from the inspiration of their founder’s spirit, and grown by sharing in each other’s joys, trials, tribulations, celebrations and losses. Each stitch is woven through with the laughter and tears of these steadfast companions. They bonded together co-creating a spiritual fabric that has spread its threads as seed in their community, and far beyond. Their hands have worked together to untie the spirit of the strong woman and to make light work of creating spiritual shawls that others might wrap around themselves to mind them on their way. These women’s hands hold love as a heartbeat of living spirit and caring community.

This women’s prayer circle plants itself in a needy world. This spirit so alive in this community of women was also present on the road to Calvary when Veronica compassionately offered a suffering stranger water and wiped his face. This circle harkens back to a circle of women disciples who stood firmly at the foot of a cross, banded together in love, through love and with love – the heartbeat of its presence.

Let us give thanks to G*d for the gift of all of these women – for hands – here and there- made in the image of G*d who formed them as the heart’s instruments. May they open all of our minds and hearts with gratitude for their presence then and now…. and encourage us to use our hands and hearts to serve and bless the world.

 

 

The Alchemy Of One’s Own Experience

Standard

As I study to serve as a spiritual director, I bring my world perspective and experience as a woman with me. I acknowledge the brokenness of the world around me and in me. I see the remedy to the divisions inherent in an androcentric world perspective as the pursuit of wholeness for all through inclusion, connectedness and mutuality in relationships.

I begin by reflecting on my own experience, my own truth and I build from there. This is not intended to operate like traditional therapy where one searches one’s personal history for answers to personal problems. This is grounded in the reality that there is a social context for all of us inherent in our male-dominated culture. This dominant cultural context gives rise to feelings of powerlessness, depression and poor self-esteem in ‘others’. This social context also confers Divine meaning through exclusively male language and metaphor for God – thereby undermining women’s equal sacredness. Many organized religions deny women full participation, and overall prescribe relationships that maintain women as dependent.

Women discover that spirituality is authentic when it is intrinsically subjective, when it is brought forth, painfully, from the womb of their own experience. From there they create a new “wisdom literature” out of the alchemy of their own lives.”

Madonna Kolbenschlag

So it is that I want to affirm spiritual direction as a safe place of equal relationship between director and directee. An equality flowing from the truth that it is the Spirit that guides each of us. In this way, each of us enters the process with no more qualification or worldly status than the early disciples and the process reflects discipleship born of the worth of each person and the gifts of Spirit in each.

This reciprocity suggests that spiritual companionship expands and deepens each of us through what we offer and what we receive. Truth then, emerges from the relationship and interaction itself, and by nature, truth is a dynamic reality. As a spiritual director, I need to be sensitive to the ways in which valuing a directee’s experience and honoring the balance of power in relationships benefits all who participate.