Holy Trees

The cathedral beech at the Jesuit Center.

Last year at this time, I was spending the better part of a week at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville with my favorite trees. The Jesuits are planning to close and sell the property in another year, so I will need to make one last pilgrimage in the coming year. The grounds require a great deal of upkeep and maintenance, as does the marvelous old building. The community of men who live there are aging, and there aren’t many of them anymore.

I long for someone to buy the place who could work with environmental groups to make it a nature preserve, to maintain the building as a spiritual retreat center, to keep caring for those holy trees.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!

“In one of the stars, I shall be living.
In one of them, I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing
When you look at the sky at night.”
―The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery


“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.” ―Octavia Butler


“The world is not to be put in order. The world is order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.” ―Henry Miller


“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” ―Jane Goodall


Prayer for the World
by Rabbi Harold Kushner

Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Amen.

Blessing and Embracing

Looking through some old journals today as I work on a project, I came across this, from my 2016 Silent Retreat at the Jesuit Center:

“A brilliant moment. A brilliant and shining moment. Yesterday evening as I was intently collaging in the Ignatian Room in the basement, two women (Catholic sisters) ‘pssss-d’ at me from the doorway. They needed help to figure out their room and how to get settled, and so I broke my silence and directed them where to go. Pleasant connection.

Just now, I saw them coming in from packing their car, so I went to talk to them. (I feel a little shaky-giddy yet with the dearness and synchronicity of it.) They, too, are/have been educators. Sisters Mary Clare and Bridget, Sisters of Mercy from Dallas, PA.

They embraced me, embraced my story. They said that they will add me and my students into their evening Centering Prayers. They said they will send me the Energy of the Universe. They said that there are no chance encounters, no coincidences.

They kissed me and embraced me and blessed me. Oh marvelous world, that has such people in it.”

I remember them and their love so clearly. Indeed, there are no coincidences, no chance encounters. How will I, how will you, bless and embrace those we meet–with such purposeful blessing from the Universe?

Facing the Shameshadow

  

      

   

      

I am home again, after four days of silence at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville. I feel refreshed, reprogrammed, reset, re-energized, rejuvenated, renovated. I needed this one more than I realized. I wasn’t admitting to myself quite the extent of the bubble I had placed between me and the world. When you live with your heart on your sleeve, it can begin to feel like you’re immune to the numbing effects of addictions and sadnesses and avoidance of the inward pathways. I think I knew that I had been veering off, not walking deeply to center, not really wanting to see myself.

It’s a long and messy story, full of my own self-absorbed wanderings. It’s about the sudden weight gain, about Facebook as pacifier, about the news cycle. It’s name is Shame. I hate it when I have to go back and work through something I have already been through, but there it is. It took me two days of walking and making art and standing in doorways to finally step through and look that Shadowself in the face and name it: Shame. I have been living by shame, and refusing to call it by its name.

The Shameshadow had been lurking at my heels, a menacing old dog. I called it Anxiety. I called it Exhaustion. I called it by the name of our new president. But when I turned and called it by its true name–Shame–it bounded up to me and began to teach me. Those other names were simply things it fed on and symptoms. It was one of those Illuminating Moments, an Epiphany. I am under no illusions. I am sure it will probably begin to lurk and growl again someday, but then I must remember that it will have more to teach me.

I don’t like that that my Shadowself so often goes by the name of Shame. I want to exorcise it once and for all, not live with it crowding my heels. But this seems to be the way of it. It returns again and again to teach me. I am grateful for the messages.

After my moment of Epiphany, I walked out to the labyrinth. At every turning, I dropped a shamebundle. You don’t want to know these, do you? It’s things like the constantly messy/dirty house, sudden weight gain, use of FB to numb anxiety, not paying enough attention to the boys, being too hard on the boys, not being the perfect teacher, not getting my grading done in a timely fashion–that gives you the picture. Some of them, I picked up again on the way out of the labyrinth, not as shame, but as ideas for satisfying my heart.

And yes, I have spoken to the Shameshadow time and again in my life. It can feel like I’ve slid back down the longest slide in the game of Chutes and Ladders, but I find the spiral a much more helpful metaphor. I have been here before, on a previous cycle, but I am spiraling onward. I am not  where I once was, just at a further loop on the spiral.

May we all find the courage to turn and call our Shadowdogs by name, and wait quietly to learn what they have to teach us.


One more thing about the monastery. My friend Ruth Ann and I decided to take our silent retreat at the same time this year. We spoke together about our intentions and hopes before we sank into silence, and then we surfaced into a quiet reflective conversation at the end. In between, we left books in the hallway outside each other’s doors. Having a silent witness and being a silent witness was a powerful experience. It was a deep and powerful level of Companionship that mirrored and enhanced the work with the inner Companionself.


Jan Richardson:
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
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“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” —William Stafford
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“There are years that ask the question and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston
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“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” —Hafiz
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Sign on a stone at the monastery: “I am now.”
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“One puts down the first line. . .in trust that life and language are abundant enough to complete it.” —Wendell Berry
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“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.” —Job 12:8
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“Sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” —Wallace Stevens
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“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” —Emily Dickinson
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“The contemplative stance is the third way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the dark side of reality and the pain of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in the evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness.” —Richard Rohr
*
“Always we begin again.” —St. Benedict
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Thomas Merton: “There are only three stages to this work: to be a beginner, to be more of a beginner, and to be only a beginner.”
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“If the Angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
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“When you have stood at the edge of the pool
and concentrated your will upon it,
a moment will arrive to ask you the question,
“What do you see?” and you will not know
whether you are gazing at the surface
or into the depths, or into the very woods itself.
All will be one, and it will be into your own soul
that you are gazing.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Rumi
*
“Ask much,” the voice suggested, and I startled.
Feeling my body like the trembling body of a horse
tied to its tree while the strange noise
passes over its ears.
I who in extremity had always wanted less,
even of eating, of sleeping.
Agile, the voice did not speak again, but waited.
“Want more” –
a cure for longing I had not thought of.
But that is how it is with wells.
Whatever is taken refills to the steady level.
The voice agreed, though softly, to quiet the feet of the horse:
“A cup taken out, a cup reappears; a bucketful taken, a bucket.”
Jane Hirshfield


Gratitude List:
1. What the Shameshadow will teach me if I will listen
2. Clearing
3. Doorways
4. Beech Cathedral and Labyrinth
5. The Art Room at the Jesuit Center
6. Cloister walks–there is something deeply TRUE about archways. Something in my spirit recognizes the deep significance of archways, even if I cannot find the words to explain.
7. Being home again. Establishing the summer rhythms.

May we walk in Beauty! With sunshine sparkling all around.

Seeking Solitude

DSCN8116
In a couple hours, I will be heading up to the Jesuit Center for three days of solitude.  I will not write on the blog until I return.

Gratitude List:
1. Wandering and pondering
2. Solitude and silence
3. Memory and dream
4. Reflection and contemplation
5. Re-imagining

May we walk in Beauty!

More from the Monastery

Featured image

Gratitude List:
1. Those clouds after the storm.  Everything glowed golden.
2. Veggie quiche.  I can’t believe how those boys ate!
3. Playing Pokemon with Ellis.  Yes, I bought myownself a deck. He wins more than I do.
4. Getting more sleep.  My body lets me sleep until 6:30 now.
5. This circle.  You and you and you and me and you and you.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here are some more things that I wrote at the Monastery:
6-15-15, Wernersville Jesuit Center

When I left the beech tree, I thought I would go sit on a bench beside a cobbled patio to put on my sandals, then find the labyrinth on my map.  The patio turned out to be the labyrinth.

Thinking about the animals that have come to my visions this year.  Lynx came to me at the year’s turning.  Macaw dropped me a feather.  Lioness and jaguar have both been reaching me in dreams and waking dreams–their messages are about leadership and impeccability.  This morning as I left the boys, a swallow flew low overhead.  And here in this place, catbird seems to be following me around.

6-16-15
In the main stairway, every time I go up and down the steps, I feel a need to greet the statue of Jesus with the open heart every time I pass him on the first floor landing.  “Hi, Jesus!”

This morning as I walked away from some contemplative time in the Cathedral of the Weeping Beech, I thought I saw a bird dying, thrashing in the grass a small distance from the gazebo.  A soft light caught the twitching, and as I walked closer, the energy did not seem to be about distress.  Suddenly it resolved in my vision into a fawn–the twitching wings were ears.  It was a small one settling in to wait for the mother, shaking the little bugs out of its eyes.

Walking this afternoon: “What makes you sad?” ask the trees.  I ask this question of myself, but somehow, it takes on new shades of meaning in their language.  I tell them all of it, how it hurts me when natural disasters happen, but that the things that make me saddest are the things the people do to hurt each other and the Earth.  Not just the intentional hurts, but the hurts born of people’s greed and lack of desire to know and to notice.

“What makes you angry?” the trees asked me then.  And many of the things were the same.  Perhaps I need to learn to differentiate better between my emotions.

Something in these questions from the trees unlocks doors within myself that I couldn’t seem to open before.

I was carrying the weight of these things with me when I reached the Mary statue, and something profound happened to me there.  I suddenly felt as though I knew about how her heart is broken again and again and again.  How she holds it all.  There she is, holding the Babe of wonder, her face filled with love for this Child of Promise.  There she is, holding the body of the young man, her son, her face filled with love and grief.  The serenity of her face holds within it the extremes of wonder and grief, love and anguish, that she knew.  She pondered these things in her heart: was she pondering how the act of opening herself to great love also opened herself to great grief?  But choosing to do it anyway, joyfully, because love is always worth it, and our hearts were made large enough and strong enough to hold it ALL.  I wept and wept and wept, holding on to her feet and looking out with her over the valley.

****

I need to keep making the story my own.