Entering the Sacred Space of Peacefulness

For 100,000 Poets for Change: A Movement for Peace and Sustainability. Please link in your own work! The info on this is below the photo/quote. Thank you!

Entering into a peaceful world requires one thing – a peaceful person. Me, to be exact. Or you. But each of us individually must travel the Via de Paz, the Way of Peace. I would like to invite you to literally walk the Via de Paz (or roll or stroll or whatever works for you).

Set your intention by saying, “I am here. I am present. I am going to walk the way of peace.” Breathe deeply, a few sustainable breaths, until your body is ready to go forward.

Now move and notice. As you begin to move, notice how your body feels. What are your senses telling you about your immediate experience of the world?

Now notice things outside yourself. Connect your senses to all that is outside of yourself. Notice what you are hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling. With each step, become aware of all that you can take in. Simply experience it. Leave judgment outside of the Via de Paz.

Experience unity by acknowledging life in its many forms.

Close your experience by returning to yourself and offering, “I am here. I am present. I am the way of peace.” Breathe deep, sustaining breaths, until you are settled and still. Offer respect and peace to the world in whatever way suits you. Perhaps Shalom, Salaam, Peace, Namaste, or Aloha!

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PEACE AND JUSTICE is our theme for the next seven days as we participate in a global event 100,000 Poets for Change

Please link in your own work here by using Mister Linky (just click on it) or by leaving your link in the comments section below. One of us will visit you then and we also plan to collect all the links shared with us to create a special commemorative page on this blog. You are welcome to share your work by linking in on any day or days during this event. Thank you! Let’s reimagine the world together. Our art has power …

Shalom,

territerrisignoffblog

 

Creating Sacred Space by Honoring the Earth

Today is the People’s Climate March. All across the globe, people are gathering, praying, chanting, and yes! marching! in the hopes that the world’s leaders will hear the call to create safe and sane policies that will ensure the future of the earth. Protecting the earth/cosmos through concern about the changing climate is sacred. It is my contention that to enter sacred space is to enter healing space

Sacred: late 14c., past participle adjective from obsolete verb sacrento make holy” (c.1200)

Holy: Old English halig “holy, consecrated, sacred, godly,” from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (cognates: Old Norse heilagr, Old Frisian helich “holy,” Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags “holy”). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.  Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” and connected with Old English hal (see health) and Old High German heilhealth, happiness, good luck

I would like to share a reading from John Cobb, a Process Theologian:

from Is It Too Late?  by John B. Cobb, Jr.
It is the belief in this Spirit, the giver of life and love, that is the basis of hope. In spite of all the destructive forces we let loose against life on this planet, the Spirit of Life is at work in ever new and unforeseeable ways, countering and circumventing the obstacles we put in its path. In spite of my strong tendencies to complacency and despair, I experience the Spirit in myself as calling forth the realistic hope apart from which there is no hope, and I am confident that what I find in myself is occurring in others also.

Since what makes for life and love and hope is not simply the decision of one individual or another, but a Spirit that moves us all, I do not have to suppose that my own efforts are of great consequence in order to believe them to be worthwhile. I can recognize that they may even be futile or misdirected and still persist in them as long as no clearer light is given, for I see what I do as part of something much greater, something in which all persons participate to whatever extent they sensitively respond to the insights and opportunities that come their way. Belief in the Spirit is belief that I am not alone, that in working for life and love in hope, I am working with something much greater than myself, that there are possibilities for the future that cannot be simply projected out of the past, that even my mistakes and failures may be woven into a healing pattern of which I am not now aware.

Belief in the Spirit is no ground for complacency. There is no guarantee that people will respond to the Spirit’s prompting in sufficient numbers and with sufficient sensitivity to begin the healing of the planet. But there is the possibility. The future can be different from the past. Therefore there is hope. Where there is life, there is hope.

Today, my hope for you is that you will have hope. Hope in a sacred, healing space that encompasses not just you. Not just your neighbor. But the entire planet and planets! All beings and non-beings. All life and even non-life — even rocks. And with that thought, I will share this photo of church signs (it is an urban myth thanks to the online church sign maker, but it makes me smile every time!)

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Shalom,

terri

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Climate Care as a Spiritual Practice

Caring for all that is can be an overwhelming job! If I think of the things within my control and trying to do the best I can, maybe I can do it in bite-size chunks. After all, I will never be able to invent some magical thing that converts pollution to life-giving energy. But I can compost!

Call on the animals to teach you; the birds that sail through the air are not afraid to tell you the truth. Engage the earth in conversation; it’s happy to share what it knows. Even the fish of the sea are wise enough to explain it to you. In fact, which part of creation isn’t aware, which doesn’t know the Eternal’s hand has done this? His hand cradles the life of every creature on the face of the earth; His breath fills the nostrils of humans everywhere. Job 12:7-10, The Voice-A Storyteller’s Bible

Climate-care, earth-care, creation-care, creature-care, caring is a deeply spiritual practice. How we approach the other starts with our interior orientation. If we practice expansive spirituality, we will be filled with gratitude, mindfulness, and joy. If not, we will be led to a diminished experience.

I wonder how we could reconnect, simply, through ritual, to creation? Perhaps a mini-ritual?

1. Set your sacred space

What are you trying to connect to? Earth? Cosmos? Stars? Bunnies? Create an easy environment where you can let your gaze gently rest on a photo, object, or even the real thing!

2. Set your intention

What do you need at this moment? For example, “I am here to connect to the earth in a way that honors the createdness of us all.”

3. The body of the ritual

Combining your intention with a ritualized act. For example, if you were sitting outside on a lawn chair, offering honor to the cosmos during the day, you could gradually look around honoring each creation you see. “Blades of grass, I honor you. Cedar trees, I honor you. Beloved cat, I honor you!”

4. Closing ritual

A signifier that it is finished. Perhaps, if you were outside in the grass, you could bring a handful of grass seeds to add to the growth. Then you could sprinkle the grass seeds in all directions, offering life. 

Be creative! This framework for ritual was created by my friend, Deborah Globus. Her avatar is LaPadre. She’s awesome!

This week is leading up to the People’s Climate March which occurs on Saturday. Perhaps those who cannot join in a march, can do a simple ritual offering healing and love to creation.

Shalom and Amen!

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

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Sacred Space in Joy

 

 

When I look at this photo of my oldest son (who is now 21–yikes!), I cannot help but feel pure joy! His joy is so strong that it overlaps out of the photo frame, across time, and into my heart. This tells a story of being present, being fearless, and being immersed.

Being present to the experience allows us to put away all the “what ifs” and “I shoulds.” Leaving the past behind (what if I had…) and leaving the present in the future (I should do…). Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay present to what is happening right now. What is happening right now? I hear the rushing wind through the open window of cars rushing along a distant road, the scrape-scrape-scrape of yardwork, indecipherable young voices traveling along buoyant air waves…

Being fearless lets us experience new things, but it also gives us the courage to express ourselves. What you can’t tell about this photo is that this is the waters of the Puget Sound. And the average water temp is 50-55 degrees. In other words, it is cold-a** water!  But he is present to the experience and it enables him to let his emotions travel across his entire body! To me, the photo screams joy! Exhilaration! And he doesn’t care if everyone knows it. What feelings need to be expressed that require courage? I have been having real bouts of depression lately. I think it is important that people outside my inner circle know that.

Being immersed in the experience removes the possibility of detachment. Maybe it is just me, but it seems that there is a way to be present, feel your own feelings, but to be detached from All That Is. Detached from creation. Detached from one another. It is almost a selfish experience of religious ecstasy. Now, bear with me for a moment. I have had religious ecstatic experiences. In a certain theological mindset, the experience is all about me & the divine experience.  It leads nowhere. To no outside experience of love and service. Then, when the experience abates, there is a seeking out of the next divine experience. Almost like an addiction. Over and over, seeking ecstasy. But there are three parties in the cosmos. Me, All That Is, and You. You is a lot of things.

  • People
  • You
  • Creation

And all that is in it and outside of it. If we are attached to one another, we will step in to stop injustice. We will work, together, towards a better future, realizing joy in the here in now. In Christian tradition, it is called the Kingdom of God. It is important to me to reach out to the lost, the least, and the lonely. Especially those in the LGBTQ community that have been harmed by religious tradition. It is important to me to also reach out to the least among us that have been affected by incarceration, especially young people whose histories are not yet fully written.

What would our lives be like if we stayed present, fearless, and immersed? Better yet, what would the world be like?

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!

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Sacred Space in the Fault Zone

During the week of August 31 – September 6, The Bardo Group will post essays, photos and poems on Wilderness to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into law in the U. S.  More information is at the end of this post-scroll down!

Throughout religious history, wilderness has been associated with sacred space. Mt. Zion, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Olympus, the wilderness outside Jerusalem, Heart Butte, Sacred Bear Butte, and the list goes on. Sacred places which attract people questing for beauty and for a glimpse into something beyond us. All over the world, people religious live in the wilderness–the Celtic “thin places.” Places where the realm between what is and what could be seem unified in a spiritual wild-zone. Thin places offer the potential for transformation. I’d like to invite you to travel into the wilderness of “The Earthquake Trail” with me and Colin (my son).

1-earthquaketrailThe Earthquake Trail is north of San Francisco and goes directly over the San Andreas fault. We went there after my son had surgery and had his post-surgery “clearance” checkup. This surgery was necessary for Colin to continue his path to a transformed, fulfilled, abundant life. It seems appropriate that we visit a place where sudden transformation has and will occur. And as the sign so appropriately points out, “Prepare yourself for the uncertainty of walking in the fault zone.

2It seems to me, that is what the wilderness experience is about. Confronting uncertainty and coming through it with a greater appreciation for the faults that lie within ourselves…and with others. But most importantly, recognizing the power that our faults have when they rage out of control and the beauty they hold when they illustrate our uniqueness.

4There is life in the fault zone. New life of grains, older life of majestic trees, even dried moss hanging on lifelessly-for now-waiting to be reborn during the moist days ahead. And most majestically, the California Condor–a bird rebounding from extinction in the wild. Life is abundant here, in the fault zone.

10Prickly thistles adding color and leaves hanging in the balance–proving even the most uncomfortable plant can provide beauty and buoyancy.

5But no matter where we are, there comes a point when we have to make a choice. Do we stay here? Or do we go deeper? Will we cross the bridge? Ford the stream?

6Once we cross, as before, there are boundaries. Places that are “in” and are “out.” Boundaries can be places of support and beauty as we grow and become comfortable with our faults.

7But our boundaries are not always healthy. Sometimes they need to be reset. Transformation happens in an upsetting of power that tumbles our soul pell-mell through the wilderness. What used to be a contiguous, easy, fence breaks and a new boundary is set. Opening up space for abundant love.

9
This fence was moved from “here” to “there” during an earthquake. It used to be one, straight fence.

And this happens within the wilderness and ancient trees that dwarf our understanding of life. But always stretching it upward and onward.

11Inviting us to further journey along the path.

12Following the inspiration that calls to us. No matter which way the wind blows. Finding sacred space in the fault zone.

13
Weathervane at the Earthquake Zone Visitor’s Center

Shalom and Amen!

terri

 

 

Simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

You are encouraged to add your voice to ours on this site via Mister Linky or by sharing a link to your work in the comments section of any post that week.  Although this is an U.S. event, we recognize that there are places all over the world that are still wild and that are protected by naturalists, scientists, governments and concerned citizens. Hence, we invite participation from everywhere. We think it would be a good thing for us to share information and insights about the world’s many wild places though poems, essays, photographs, music and videos. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  

 

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Sacred Space in Perfection Part II

It seems that Perfection is the hot topic this week! I was inspired last week to talk about perfection and its historical evolution in meaning based on a post by Corina on Perfection and Creation. And lo! Another post popped up! This time by Liliana, titled On Perfection. All this thinking on perfection inspired me to think of moments of visual perfection.

Are these moments the best photograph? No. The best looking “insert blank”? No. The best, most perfectest representation? No. But what they are is a moment captured that pulls on…well, it just pulls. Like tug-of-war, except that I cannot see the other team! That team is somewhere over the horizon.

Therefore, I’d like to offer the following photos and gleaned ideas about perfection as a setting of sacred space.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”― Marcus Aurelius

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“If everything is imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most perfect in its perfect imperfection. ” ― Gunnar Björnstrand

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“Absolute perfection is here and now, not in some future, near or far. The secret is in action – here and now. It is your behavior that blinds you to yourself. Disregard whatever you think yourself to be and act as if you were absolutely perfect – whatever your idea of perfection may be. All you need is courage.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

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“Perfection is not a destination; it’s a never-ending process…Enjoy!” ― Jim Bouchard

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“Perfect should never be a goal. Perfect just happens if you let it.” ― Wendy Wunder

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“One in All
All in One–
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect (175)” ― Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures

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“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” ― 1 John 4:12, Christian Scriptures

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“The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.” ― Oscar Wilde

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“There is something perfect to be found in the imperfect: the law keeps balance through the juxtaposition of beauty, which gains perfection through nurtured imperfection.” ― Dejan Stojanovic

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“The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts.” Abdu’l-Baha (Star of the West, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 41.), Bahai Teaching

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“The power of thought is the light of knowledge, the power of will is the energy of character, the power of heart is love. Reason, love and power of will are perfections of man.” ― Ludwig Feuerbach

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Shalom and Amen!

~Terri

All Photos by Terri Stewart, simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

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Sacred Space in Perfection

perfection memeRecently, I read dragonkatet’s piece on “Perfection and Creation.” This got me to ruminating on the nature of perfection. In the United Methodist Church, clergy wannabe’s are required to answer the question, “Are you going on to perfection in this lifetime?” And the expected answer is “yes!”

I had heard a rumor in seminary by Dr. Jack Olive that perhaps our understanding of perfection is different than the understanding that early theologians and philosophers had. And that John Wesley turned to Eastern Orthodox wisdom in an effort to better understand perfection. That appealed to me because perfection seems so unattainable. What if there is a different way?

Corina got me thinking about all of this again! Is perfection unattainable? Is perfection only attributable to the Divine? What is up with this kind of pressure we put on ourselves? And as with everything, the truth is that our understanding has drastically changed over time. Which leaves us free to define perfection in a way that leads to greater life.

The Greek concept is where it all begins for western cultures. That word was “teleos.” In many cases, this word is understood to be completeness rather than the common understanding of perfection—“without flaw.”

perfectionchocolateAristotle defines three meanings of perfection:

  1. That which is complete.
  2. That which is so good that nothing can be found better.
  3. That which has attained its purpose.

aquinasquoteThomas Aquinas goes on to give perfection a dual-fold meaning: That which is perfect in itself (its substance) and when it perfectly suits its purpose.

Other philosophers and theologians have defined perfection to be:

  • Endless
  • The greatest
  • Existence

Plato and Parmenides thought that the world was perfect. That it had perfect shape and motion (spherical/circular). The world is perfect, God is not. Attributing perfection, an intellectual concept of humanity, to the Divine, was a heresy.

However, later came the pantheist Stoics who attributed perfection to the Divine. Why? Because the Divine was equivalent with the world. Here, we are just one short step away from the modern idea that only the Divine is perfect and that we all suffer from an inability to be complete in our own bodies and to find and fulfill our purpose. Eventually, Aristotle’s First Cause and Christianity’s Creator became comingled in theology. Although perfection was still not attributed to the Divine as perfection was believed to be finite.

In the 9th century, philosopher Paschasius Radbertus said that “Everything is the more perfect, the more it resembles God.” But still, God was not perfect because of the finiteness ascribed to the concept of perfection. It is Rene Descartes who introduces perfection as applied to the Divine as he introduces the “perfections of God.” However, Descartes also states that “existence itself is perfection.” They may just have been going through a confusion of perfections!

The concept of perfection has undergone great changes throughout human history. “Nothing in the world is perfect”, to “Everything is perfect”; and from “Perfection is not an attribute of God”, to “Perfection is an attribute of God.” (Tatarkiewicz, “Ontological and Theological Perfection,” Dialetics and Humanism, vol. VIII, no. 1 (winter 1981), p. 192.)

perfectionPerhaps it is time to render a definition of perfection that lifts us up and allows us to achieve completeness and fulfill our purpose. In Christianity, we often go back to “The Greatest Commandment.” That is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We then focus on the loving God part and then sometimes the loving your neighbor part but totally neglect the implied love yourself part. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love ourselves, we can achieve completeness, find and fulfill a purpose! Artists gotta art. Preachers gotta preach. Poets gotta poem. Architects gotta design. Caretakers gotta care. And so on. Of course, within all of this is the tension between what we want and what we have. There are limits and sometimes part of loving is setting aside the dream and doing the chore. But that is still part of purpose. And it is still part of perfection.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, totally subscribes to the “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” approach to perfection. He writes,

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown !
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!

I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

easypeasy2Perfection is living life in such a way that “every act, word, thought, be love!” Easy peasy.

Perhaps living a life where everything is derived from love is not so easy. But it is something that I can ascribe to, and with practice, grow into. So perhaps perfection is the process that leads to a complete life fulfilled in acts of love–love that leads to justice, mercy, and humility.

So mote it be!

Shalom,

Terri

Simultaneously published at www.BeguineAgain.com

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Sacred Space in Community

I am currently away at a retreat. While here, I have been reminded of the importance of community. This community is working together towards a goal of having an imagination emporium. A physical space where the community gathers to imagine ways to transform the world to a more just society.

I thought, “We have that!

The Bardo Group imagines peace and justice every  day. And we walk with each other even with our diverse geographies.

That is Sacred Space.

by Lynda flickr.com/just1snap (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
by Lynda flickr.com/just1snap
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Today, I would like to invite us all to build something together.  Words that imagine justice for the lost, the least and the lonely. I am sure there is an official name for what I am proposing, but I am going to call it “communal haiku.” I will start us out with a haiku and I invite each reader to respond in their own way. Each of us building on the gift of one another. Sacred Space in community, building a gift together that imagines a transformed world.

This is inspired by a reading from on Hebrew scripture, Isaiah 25:6-10. Reaching back and including another community!

Celebrated wines poured
into cut-crystal goblets.
Prisoner’s freedom.

What comes next?

Shalom,
Terri Stewart

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Sacred Space in Mental Illness

A while ago, I was a Spiritual Director at a women’s prison. While I was there, one of my clients had a mental illness. Entering into Spiritual Direction was interesting because it challenged me to think about G*d in ways I had never thought of. Here, I had a client who was clearly seeking “something more” but was afraid of “voices” in her head. Huh. In traditional language about the divine, I often speak of a “call” or a “nudge” or “voice” that comes from elsewhere. Now that elsewhere can be internally or externally, but it is still quite separate from the logical thought processes of my mind. The question became, what do I do if I am afraid of trusting any voice other than the logical thought process? How do I imagine the divine?

The product of my imaginings were twofold. My imaginings produced a poem called “ghost town” that is an exploration of what it means to be a seeker with a mental illness. This led to the realization that the only trustworthy things were concrete, visible, and available. And this is okay. It too, is sacred space.

And so I offer to you, “ghost town.”

ghost town

From a Ghost Town in AZ
An Actual Ghost Town in AZ

small, still voice of wind,
tossing my tumbleweed-thoughts
that roll through a ghost town.

here, my safety has been
abandoned to the rats and mice
that hide from revelation,
distrusting that light
so much that they will not stay
and visit. the locks and guns
have been jammed by mud-caked
memories of injustice,
in the sheriff’s office.

the hollow-hallow notes of the
player-piano silent
except for the collapsing
frame that drops pieces of itself
crashing onto the discordant keys,
creating a nightmare sound of
happiness twisted into grief,
twisted into a mockery of joy,
in the saloon.

the telegraph does not speak
into the future, the wires
have frayed and disconnected
from the source of consolation,
reality has dissolved letters of love
or news of the war and the
beloved sears & roebuck catalog,
in the post-office.

the ghost town disgusts me.
especially when the wind is
blowing and changing all that
i know into something unknown
ripping the roof apart and causing
the cacophony of noises to come
in from all directions telling
me, what?  untrustworthy voice!

so small and still or
so big and booming

telling me to tear the walls apart
bare-handed until my fingers
become bloody stubs and
yet you insist that i see you,
listen to you, the wind destroying
the small community of barn owls
and bats that i have built in my
ghost town.  i do not want to hear
you.  the owls and bats are my
saving grace.

Terri Stewart, Dec. 2010

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Sacred Space in our Bodies

A few weeks ago, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world.

The upshot is that Western Christianity, whether we are Christian or not, has exerted a large influence on the social constructs of the world. This influence has taught that our bodies are to be reviled! Part of the process of reclaiming our bodies as sacred space has been to examine the historical underpinnings and how it is lived out in modern advertising and culture today. From the dualism of Plato to the rejection of sexuality by Augustine and the shaming of our bodies, we have and are experiencing a crisis of embodiment.

When we do not experience our own embodiment, we can divorce ourselves from hurting others. This is most tragically being lived out on the world stage in the crisis between Israel and Palestine. One most tragic headline is the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. These teens, kidnapped and killed, were mere tools on the world-stage. Because their lives, their bodies, did not matter. The work of Liberation Theologians and Philosophers is needed now more than ever to release us from thinking our own bodies and the bodies of others are less than worthwhile. It is tragic.

What is the solution? Unfortunately, the only way to experience our own bodies as sacred is to do interior work that can be difficult. Sociologist Brené Brown describes this problem as one of shame. We live in shame of ourselves and it then extends to others and leads to lives of scarcity rather than abundance. The interior work that we have to do to overcome shame is in three parts: (1) mindfulness, (2) joy, and (3) gratitude. It’s that easy. (Just joking!)

I would call it “being present.” You must remain present to the now in order to experience mindfulness, joy, and full gratitude. When we pop out of being present and drop into either looking too far into the past or too far into the future, we will lose it. Can you remember that moment of pure joy, maybe looking at something beautiful – a sunset, a child, a loved one, a flower – and then you start thinking of the “what ifs?” By losing being present, joy is lost, gratitude is lost, mindfulness is lost. We become lost and then the other becomes lost. By remaining present, our interior lives are expanded outwards to overflowing! Our bodies become sacred and other bodies become sacred. All of life, in every part of the cosmos, becomes sacred.

That is the Kingdom of Love made manifest! And remember, you are beautiful!

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Sacred Space in All That Is

I am not quite done with the reading I wanted to do to create the final posting in the series of Sacred Space in the body, so I am going to share this recent post I wrote over at BeguineAgain.com.

…I was, I AM, I will always be…

Really, that’s the definition of the Holy Name that G*d passes on to Moses. This infinitive form of the verb “to be,” makes me think of even more! Reaching my fingers back through time and forward to the future.

Couple that with the declaration in the book of Genesis,

Let us make humans in our own image! Male AND female G*d created them

Lawrence T. Richardson expanded a bit on this. Instead of our traditional understanding that would be more of male OR female, G*d created them, it is male AND female. He is a transgender, queer-identified pastor, someone who has been created both male and female and claims both. Pastor Richardson talks of transgender people being the epitome of G*d since they are both male AND female rather than either/or. Now, I don’t really agree that there is a hierarchy of being most made in the image of G*d, but I do agree that the great I AM is embodied in all people.

One of the things I love about physics is the discussion of matter in regular plain-old Newtonian physics. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Therefore, the dust that we experience has always been, is, and will always be. The things we breathe and touch that make us sneeze fits, have always been, are, and will always be. We are all connected through earthly and cosmic stardust (to dip into Carl Sagan’s language a bit). We, through our connection to the divine and through our connection to physical matter have always been, are, and will always be.

How can I not feel holiness, sacredness, the divine if we are not all connected?

stardust shimmers

ten thousand light years ago

birthing new life

It is at moments when I reflect on all that was, is, and shall be, that I feel fully connected and grounded in the Sacred Space in All That Is.

from the Hubble Telescope Infrared Horsehead Nebulae
from the Hubble Telescope
Infrared Horsehead Nebulae

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

Originally published at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

Photograph from the Hubble Telescope, Creative Commons License

terri

REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to terri@cloakedmonk.com

Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

Four weeks ago (plus one week off), I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Part III here

Today, the images, poems, and points address the issue of men and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space. I am additionally adding an update of men and shame from Brené Brown.

  • Each subset of males see’s their body as either limiting or freeing. Either an asset or a liability.
  • Disappointment or embarrassment with body image is not talked about.
  • Men objectify others (esp. women) in the very ways they hope that they themselves are not objectified.
  • Men disguise their bodies (weights, tattoos, fashion)

Two examples come to us from Saul Williams and Brett Dennen. Mr. Williams talks about the inescapability of the realities that are attached to black, male bodies (explicit) while Mr. Dennen addresses the shame and guilt attached to the privilege of being Western-European-American and male.

WARNING: EXPLICIT: Saul WIlliams

Brett Dennen

In both cases, the artist laments the body as that which separates him from larger community and peace. The body is either used to marginalize or is a symbol of appropriation and bodily harm. The body is mournful, life-stealing, and restrictive.

Sociologist and author Brené Brown, PhD, offers this list of shame that men experience: (page 91-92, “Daring Greatly,” an abbreviated version of the list is below)

  • Shame is failure.
  • Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
  • Shame is a sense of being defective.
  • Shame happens when people think you’re soft.
  • Revealing any weakness is shaming.
  • Showing fear is shameful.
  • Shame is being seen as “the guy you can shove up against the lockers.”
  • [Men’s]worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed–either one of these is extremely shaming.

But the body is sacred!
Kelly Brown Douglass: Divine incarnation affirms the holiness of all bodies.
Sally McFague: Spirit and Matter are intrinsically related.
Mayra Rivera: God’s transcendence in our embodiment “summons” us to a new ethic.
Galatians 5:2 “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of our bodies presented here and in the other presentations, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

Next week, I will look at this for one more week focusing on the good news that comes to us from the sources of spirituality and sociology. More Brené Brown! This next piece hasn’t been written, but I have ideas! Can you help me out by offering my the body-positive messages and quotes you receive from your spiritual paths and traditions?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

P.S. From Brené Brown on women and shame (I wish I had read this book before I started this series rather than in the middle of it!) (From pages 85-86,”Daring Greatly,” abbreviated version)

  • Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
  • Being judged by our mothers.
  • Being exposed–the flawed parts that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.
  • No matter what you achieve, what you’ve come from and survived will always keep you from feeling like you’re good enough.
  • Even though everyone knows there is no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.
  • Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.
  • No seat at the cool table. The pretty girls are laughing.

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in our Elder Bodies

Three weeks ago, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Today, the below video points to the issue of the elderly and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space.

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of aging presented here, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in Rest

I am interrupting my series on Sacred Space in the Body. I wish I could say that it was for a lofty reason, but the truth of the matter is that I wrote a sermon that took all the words out of my body and left me with nothing! And this is a beautiful post about resting and sabbath that I co-created with my FB friend and photographer, Tom Ganner. Originally published at BeguineAgain.com. I’ll be back on track with Sacred Space in the Elder Body next week.

Today’s theme of sacred space in rest is offered by photographer Tom Ganner. Tom is a photographer from Haines, Alaska. I met him last year when I went on a cruise. He toured us around Haines to all the “photography” spots. He was so gracious! I encourage you to look at his photography (http://www.timenspace.net/) and if you are in the area, take his tour!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
The high point of my summer has been two weeks with my grandson. I regret I have to take him down to Juneau today to return him home to Colorado. He says he wants to come back next year.  Photo created up Haines Pass near Three Guardsmen. — with Oliver in Haines, AK.
The high point of my summer has been two weeks with my grandson. I regret I have to take him down to Juneau today to return him home to Colorado. He says he wants to come back next year. Photo created up Haines Pass near Three Guardsmen. — with Oliver in Haines, AK.
“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.” 
― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
Another ho-hum day in paradise with grandson Oliver at David's Cove. — in Haines, AK.
Another ho-hum day in paradise with grandson Oliver at David’s Cove. — in Haines, AK.
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” 
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
(c) Photos, Tom Ganner, All Rights Reserved
(c) Essay, Terri Stewart, Creative Commons (BY-NC)
terrisignoffblog

 

 

Sacred Space in Our Bodies: Women

Last week, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Today, I will be speaking to the point of women and body image. I will be using images, factoids, and spoken word to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space

The problem: Pretty

iraneusquoteAccording to society and the media, pretty is not:

  • Dark skin
  • Dark hair
  • Freckles
  • Fat
  • Crooked noses
  • Old
  • Or short

Pretty is:

  • Pale
  • I’d like to point out that even women I consider quite beautiful such as Beyonce, often have their skin “lightened” in Photoshop for magazine covers.  I am sure this is the editor’s choice.
  • Tall
  • Skinny
  • Young
  • Sexualized
  • Vanity Fair magazine did a survey of who the most beautiful woman is in 2009 and Angelina Jolie won by a wide margin.  I believe that she fits all of these categories, especially the sexualized presentation of women.

Often, in the media, sexualized women are used for no apparent reason.  In this advertisement that popped up one day while I was working on research for this presentation, there is this woman presenting her legs and high heels…for an advertisement about school grants.

advertisement

Popular media has a freedom to make fun of what pretty isn’t…whether it is fat, short, old, or freckled.  Here Tyra Banks is being called fat.  She is a role model for young women across America whether we like it or not.  If people are associating fat with her and calling her ugly and disgusting, what does that do to our young women that admire her?

tyra

And now a personal story…

colincaseyThis is my my child Colin and his cousin Casey, my niece.  These two kids both consider themselves fat at this time.  Colin was afraid to wear “skinny jeans” because he thinks they make him look fat so he hides his body behind baggy basketball shorts and sweatshirts. Casey is in the same boat. They already don’t like their bodies.

Even models are not thin enough.  Ralph Lauren ran this ad with this image in Japan.  They then fired Filippa Hamilton for “breach of contract” which she says is because she was too big.

filippa

Here, Dove bravely shows us the evolution of beauty:

Here is the list of the Maxim Hot 100.  Women and girls measure themselves against this list and this standard of beauty thinking it will bring

  • Happiness
  • Fulfillment
  • Joy
  • Wealth
  • Desire
  • And Self Worth

maxim

 

This is death dealing to our young women.

  • Teenagers who THINK they are overweight are at a higher risk of suicide.
  • Over 35 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder of some kind…anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.  A huge percentage of these people are women.  Up 95% of the people with anorexia or bulimia are women and 65% of people with a binge eating disorder are women.  Or girls.
  • Eating disorders cause early onset of disease and illness.
  • This is being driven down to an earlier age…over 80% of 10 year olds fear being fat.
  • Again, this is death dealing.  Young women are dying from eating disorders.

Just to contrast,  Measuring against this standard of beauty actually brings

  • Depression
  • Sexual Disorder
  • Self Hatred
  • Self Mutilation
  • Eating Disorders
  • And Suicide

Popular music is no better. Here is an offensive song by the Macc Lads called “Ugly Women.” The lyrics include:

Thank God for ugly women, all the boilers bags and trolls, Just so they could get a shag they invented alcohol.

Speaking of self-mutilation and to that which Kathy Makkai spoke of so poignantly in her poem, nearly 1.2 cosmetic surgeries done for non-medical reasons were done in 2008.

plasticsurg

Ridiculously, this is now being marketed in children’s books. There is a book called, “My Beautiful Mommy” available on amazon.

But there is good news! Our young women are changing and the world is moving into a place where we can consider our bodies and body image, sacred space.

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. My hope and prayer is that you will hear the prophetic words of Kathy Makkai and the Girl’s Making Media and declare your body and your body image sacred space.

Can I get an Amen?

References are here.

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in our Bodies

I am going to resurrect and modify a presentation I did a few years ago with Terra Morgan, Bjorn Peterson, and Denise Ritthaler. In this presentation, we develop the case for a theology of Liberation of the Body. Although we use references, occasionally, from Christianity, the topics transcend that particularity. And unfortunately, this dialogue has framed much of western culture’s understanding of our bodies.

This will be a four part series looking at:

  1. The case for a Liberation of the Body & Liberation of our sexual being
  2. Liberation of women and particularly body image
  3. Liberation of elder bodies
  4. Liberation of men

(Note: This already is too gendered and separated! But it is the beginning of our thoughts on the topic).

And we just barely touch the iceberg!

Why do I consider this sacred space? I consider that we are in relationship with three things:

  1. us and bodies
  2. us and the world
  3. us and the divine

If we are not at peace with our bodies, our own selves, our angst and anger will spill into our treatment of the world and into our understanding of the divine. If we believe the Divine is within, and within us we hurt ourselves, then the Divine is also hurt. If we believe the Divine is outside of us, and has caused this, the Divine becomes capable of vengeance and capricious pain. Either way, it seems a difficult place to hold. Throw in the world and how we use it, and we are done for. So in an effort to move into peacefulness within ourselves and then in relationship with the world, let us consider our bodies as sacred space worth liberating.

Additionally, since nobody has really written “Let’s liberate our bodies!” what you will experience may be music, images, factual stuff, poetry…it’s all fair game!

Do you want the geeky stuff? Here it is!

The Theological Problem: Liberation of the Body

by Terri Stewart, Denise Ritthaler, Terra Morgan, and Bjorn Peterson

We are talking about liberating the body in a variety of forms. It is a theological problem that has developed from Platonism which brings us the realm of forms and particulars. In forms we have transcendence, the soul, and reason. This is the optimal way of being in the world. In the particulars, we have our senses, opinions, and our body. This is not the preferred way of being in the world. Separating ourselves into dualistic (tri-istic?) bits ignores that we are one integrated body and only one way to experience our senses.

Platonism impacts Christianity through an interpretation of Jesus’ ascetic personal practices. Then Paul, who was Greek and had a greater influence from Platonic sources, brought a more extreme sexual ethic into his writings.

Then, through the source of tradition, we then have Augustine who tells us that the body is sinful and that the soul and reason are to be preferred. This places God as “out there.” Away from the body because clearly, God is not sinful, therefore, even though the Divine is incarnational, the Divine has nothing to do with the body.

Maya Rivera, theologian, says, “This privileges “sameness over difference, of the One over the multiplicity, of the universal over the particular…in such systems there is no place for real otherness. Totalities reduce persons to categories.” (Rivera, 57)

However, Neale Donald Walsh reminds us of the inseparability.

“Your mind holds the past,
your body holds the present,
your soul holds the future.
Put another way,
the mind analyzes and remembers, Slide5
the body experiences and feels,
the soul observes and knows.”

So who are we really?

We are the body of the Divine participating in one diverse reality that would cast us all as other.

And who is the Divine?

Slide6God is love in the recognition that we and all of creation exist together and yet the Divine is so much more. The source, the center, the spring of existence. The Divine is other, existence is other, and we are other to ourselves. And yet, we are all each an incarnational part of Love’s cosmic creation.

This approach to liberation of the body is through a demonstration of what it means for humans as sexual beings, humans as women and their body image, humans as the elder body, and humans as men. (Note: I would also consider that this is entirely too gendered, but it is a starting point.)

Liberation of the Sexual Body

We are all sexual beings. Whether or not we have sex, we are sexual beings. In Western culture (and many others around the world), our sexuality is frowned upon. The appreciation for eros is limited. In ancient Greek, we have three words for love – agapos, philos, and eros. Each one describing a different aspect of love. Eros is believed to be that type of love that is the seat of creativity. In sexuality, we see this as the drive to have children – create! Some scholars believe that eros is the seat of all our creative desires. But our religious authorities rarely express this. This is because of a theological battle endured 1600+ years ago between Augustine and Pelagius.

Slide9If we had only chosen Pelagius! But the foundation is there to have a theology based in free-will and the idea that we are indeed born in a state of being good rather than in a state of being a worm. And it was good! Very, very good!

created by Terri Stewart
graphic created by Terri Stewart

The Unity Church developed a philosophy of “The 12 Powers.” Spiritual abilities that we are perfectly able to express and that are present in every person. These powers hold that the body is good, very very good! This connects very nicely to the Chakras as described in so many ways and visualized to the right.

But through it all, from the beginning to now, the body, mind, and spirit has been connected to our bodies. Pelagius knew that and we can see it. And our creative, generative bodies can also experience being liberated through the concept of liberating our own bodies to give and receive love. We are created, we create. That is the Divine circle of our eros bodies.

One way to experience a liberated body grounded in eros-creativity is through music and movement. I encourage you to listen to the below, simple music and to move your body however you will–without shame or reservation. Reach an arm to the sky! Roll your head from side-to-side! Sway! Thou shalt do what thou shalt do! And this is the end of part 1, laying the groundwork for a Liberation of the Body and using cultural items to show that we are already liberated! Let’s claim our sexual, eros selves as liberated beings.

How would you write your eros liberation?

Pour Yourself In Me ~Rickie Byers Beckwith

A Unity Church Artist

Shalom and Amen!

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Sacred Space in the Text

Sacred space in the text? There are one zillion texts that people can find sacred space in, so what do I mean? It’s not that text. The text I mean is your phone. Texting. Find sacred space in your phone via texting.

How?

By stopping right now! Noticing where you are and what you are doing, and texting it to an accountability partner.

Stop! State what process you are beginning.

Drop! Notice what are you feeling? Drop down into your heart. Now, what is your intention?

Text! Send it to an accountability partner.

That creates a moment of sacred space, each and every day. If you program it into your calendar to “Stop, Notice, and Text”, you will be able to become present to the situation at hand, state your feelings honestly, and move on into the next movement with grace and transparency. This is sacred.

Do you have someone you can be a Stop-Notice-Text accountability partner with? Or, can you text yourself?

Tell me what you think! I look forward to hearing from you.

Terri Stewart Conversation with Mentor
Terri Stewart
Conversation with Mentor

 

Shalom & Amen!

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in the Window

One of the most difficult things that humans do is make meaning from their current situation. In seminary, we were asked to do an assignment called, “This I Believe.” I still treasure the product of that assignment and will share it below. A few questions I pondered and hoped to be thoughtful about included:

  • What is belief?
  • How is belief lived out?
  • Does belief evolve over time?
  • If belief evolves over time, what does that mean?
  • Could belief be the only particular window into the world?
  • Or is belief a particular window into the world?

windows

as i look behind
i see a path of aged stone
worn away at the edges
cementing to its neighbor
existing since the
apple flew from the tree

as i look ahead
i see tangles and brambles
and flowers and warmth
and my foot reaches out
as the stone peeks
through the grasses
for a moment
while i hesitantly
test the ground
of all being

as i place my foot
down on the rock
the path is solid and
the tangles and brambles
dissolve into nothing
as the daisies lean towards
the sun gesturing
for me to proceed

as i look up
i see a mansion
welcoming me with
the scent of lavender
and love
calling out like
mama greeting me
after a long summer
away at camp

as i reach the door
i turn the handle
shaking and trembling
with fear and awe
standing at the portal
that leads to
a new place of belonging

as i step forward
realizing this is home
my ragged teddy bear
is waiting for me
on the worn chair
joy glinting off his
button eye

Papa! Mama!
i am home!

“In the garden, child.”

as i look out
i suddenly notice
the windows
each stained to create
a beautiful invitation
of loving encouragement
and lively warmth
leading to the garden

as i run from window
to window i am stunned
by the rainbow of promise
that dances before
my eyes
until i see him
and i am caught
by his image
as love overwhelms me
and my heart dances
and the garden glistens
through the
tears in my eyes

as i peek into the garden
i see Papa waiting for me
and my hand reaches out
to touch the beauty of
him and passes
through the glass
holding me in surprise
while i walk through the
window into the light
enraptured with him

i run to Papa
and leap into His arms
knocking Him back and
He receives me with
a chuckle and twirls
me headily through the
clouds with laughter
born of love and
grace.

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!

Poem, Terri Stewart, May, 2009
Photo, Terri Stewart, 2013
Post, Terri Stewart, updated from 2013 at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

terrisignoffblog

Sacred Space and Photography: Light v. 2

Sacred Space and Photography: Light v. 2

This month is interNational Photography month! Here, at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month-long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.

Last week, I wrote about the symbolism in our religious traditions of light and used photography and light to show how we can point to something that transcends our understanding. Plato would say that the photo of sunset points towards the form of sunset—that perfected form of sunset-ness.

Plato’s Theory of Forms “described the common nature of all things in the world, not just of a table, for instance but of all the tables that ever were and ever will be. This Platonic form of the ideal table is eternal and changeless. It has an essential tableness, as it were, that exists whether the table is where you ate lunch in the school cafeteria or the one at a Paris café where you fell in love. In Plato’s famous allegory of the cave in “The Republic,” the things that we see on a daily basis, like the table in front of you, are merely shadows of the ideal form.” (https://www.archetypes.com/article/plato)

Any object can point towards the perfected idea of that object. And what we see in front of us is essentially a shadow of its ideal self (as no perfected form can be reached—saving this philosophical and theological discussion for another time!).

In photography, shadows are only achievable when there is light. Without light, no shadows. And sometimes, shadows can lead to beautiful pictures. When we handle shadows correctly.

Pointing Towards the Form of Tree by Terri Stewart
Pointing Towards the Form of Tree-ness
by Terri Stewart

And isn’t that true of life? We need to handle our own shadows correctly in order to have a more perfected life? Our shadows, like Plato’s cave, leave us living lives that are not quite ideal. Often, our shadow grows out of shame. Shame comes from unresolved trauma—something that we have not dealt with entirely. For me, shame is often connected to my body image. I remember, 30 years ago, sitting at the dinner table all of 5’3” and 120 pounds and being told, “No wonder I was fat.” And then crying into my plate. Logically, I know that 5’3” and 120 pounds was just fine. But that shame experienced at that moment is seared into my brain and I can recall the rush of tears that made me ashamed of my body. That feeds into self-sabotage of my embodied self in some ways and can lessen my general enjoyment of life unless I deal with it and learn to look at my shadow and bring it into the light!

I can use photography to examine both myself and my shadow. Selfies aren’t all selfish. You can use them to take photos of your shadow self, bringing yourself more and more into the light and into a fuller realization of our perfected selves.

Pointing Towards the Form of Terri-ness by Terri Stewart
Pointing Towards the Form of Terri-ness
by Terri Stewart

Someone said that photography is painting with light. It is also learning how to cope with shadows and darkness.  Do you have a shadow—in your photos? Can you peek into it and see how it points towards the fullness of life?

Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
Photography, CC License (CC BY-NC)

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to terris@beguineagain.com

 

Sacred Space and Photography: Light

This month is interNational Photography month! Here at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month-long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.

In my journey with photography, I have become more aware of light. The presence of light, the absence of light, how it causes reflection, my friend, Paul Jeffrey, told us once that he always turns the flash off, taking advantage of natural light. (I’m sure the rule is “almost always.”) I find that in photographing nature, that I try to stick to that rule and rely on photo-editing software to help me out if I need it. He also taught us how to make a faux tripod to steady ourselves when our shutter speed is taking just a little bit too long.

Light is a dominant theme in religious traditions also.

  • Christianity: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5),
  • Islam: “Knowledge makes you free from the chains of ignorance, and revives your heart, knowledge takes you out from the darkness of suspicions and superstitions, and gives a new light to your eyes. (Hazrat Abu Ali Saqfi)
  • Judaism: “I will say to the prisoners, ‘Go free!’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Come out to the light!’ (Isaiah 49:9)
  • Buddhism: “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” (Gautama Buddha)
  • Hinduism: “One who kindles the light of awareness within gets true light.” (Unattributed)
  • Baha’i: “Grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth.” (Bahá’u’lláh)

The general thrust is that light is a metaphor for that which brings us to a higher consciousness or awareness, provides hope, guidance, and love. It is a beautiful thing when, through appropriate use of light, we can communicate a deeper exploration of these qualities—awareness of what is unseen, hope, love, beauty—a very real reflection of life. And sometimes, light lets you see something in a different way.

My favorite picture that I’ve ever taken of one of my children captures light and it seems, to me, to convey innocence and an essential quality of “child” that is so easy to forget. This is an old photo, by the way! And the picture isn’t perfect, but it still conveys a lightness of being that transcends the particular quality of the photo.

by Terri Stewart CC License (BY-NC)
by Terri Stewart
CC License (BY-NC)

How do the following pictures and their use of light point to something beyond the images captured in the photo?

Light Collage by Terri Stewart
Light Collage
by Terri Stewart

What do thoughts of light lead you to? Do you have a favorite photo that features light or the absence of light?

 

Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
Photography, CC License (CC BY-NC)

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.