Sacred Space

Sacred Space
Sacred Space

Have you had that day? Ever? When your last nerve has been strung and compassion, justice and mercy have fled your body? I have that day sometimes. Usually, on those kind of days I like to retreat to sacred space. Space that can be my family, my friends, my books, my camera…some place where I can be filled up with the qualities that have leeched out.

But sometimes that is not possible!

I could be at the detention center where I work. Conflict and craziness do sometimes abound among the incarcerated and sometimes among the staff and volunteers. One night I was working and a fight broke out right in front of me. Other nights, down the hall. As staff rush towards the chaos, I sit frozen (as I am instructed to do) and then proceed in the opposite direction. I often retreat to the library where the clanging is at least muted.

Or I could be at my home and expectations meet reality and voices rise in anger or disappointment threads the air. Then my retreat is not a retreat. Mostly, we are loving. But there are times when love seems miles away.

During those times, I need to create sacred space where it seems that there is no room for it. Hopefully, I am not alone in feeling this way! I would like to offer you one simple practice that can be done anywhere at any time. You can create your own sacred space with a piece of paper and a pen. No! This is not a writing assignment. It is a wholeness assignment.

Temenos (Greek) is sacred space. Or land that is set aside for royalty or the priesthood. In Ancient Greece, it would be the place reserved for worshiping the gods. Jung further expands on the concept of temenos as a place where you can encounter your unconsciousness, bringing the shadow into the light. A place of healing, acceptance, worship, encounter, and sacredness.

I am connecting these ideas to the ancient labyrinth where, at the very center, is the temenos.

I have a portable labyrinth that is used in my work with incarcerated youth. Teens can be so funny when they first encounter the labyrinth! They look at it as a maze, at first. But then as they slowly progress through the turns of the labyrinth, focusing on their chosen word or phrase, something happens. Softness overtakes them. They slow down. The rhythm of the room deepens. Their shields begin to drop. Sometimes, they arrive at the center and just sit for a long time. It is also a place of safety, even in the midst of incarceration, a place of danger.

However, we are not all blessed to have a labyrinth stored in our garage! Luckily, we do not need the full meal deal to create a labyrinth. Just pen and paper (or crayon and paper!).

As you set about creating your own labyrinth, set your intentions. When I am in the detention center and do this, I am often focused on peacefulness. Then, when you are done, walk the labyrinth with your finger. Focus on your intention. It is said that there are three stages to walking a labyrinth.

  1. Purgation:  purging yourself of your thoughts that are attached to the world.
  2. Illumination:  opening yourself to enlightenment, inspiration, reception of the other
  3. Union:  becoming one with ______________ . I will let you fill in the blank with your understanding of what we are in union with.  This could be anything from unity with self, others, the cosmos, the divine. This is where we sit and hold the space.

It only takes a minute to draw a labyrinth and to create an opportunity for your own sacred space no matter where you are or what your are doing. It could be as simple as a doodle on a napkin at lunch!

Shalom & Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. 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 cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Enter the Story – An Ignatian Style Meditation

St. Ignatius of Loyola
From Wikipedia

St. Ignatius of Loyola, over time, became very concerned with spiritual practices. He developed one particular method that uses the imagination. It is sometimes called “Ignatian Contemplation.” Ignatian Contemplation uses the imagination as its center piece. In particular, using scripture and entering it using all the senses–feel the heat of the day, the dust in the road, or the smell of livestock. Enter the story in a complete way.

Today, I offer to you the story of the first king of Israel, Saul, and how he became the king. I ask you to use all your senses to enter the story. You may enter it as one of the characters or you may be a bystander. You may even be livestock! Whatever you choose, extend your reading of the story into your senses–taste, touch, smell, sight, sounds.

Take a moment and ground yourself. Sit comfortably, whatever that means for you. Take a breath in and release it.

Saul was at home, hanging out with his family and some of the donkeys escaped. Now Saul was a young, teenage boy–not viewed as a testosterone filled leader (although he is reported to be quite handsome!). Saul’s task, assigned by his family, was to go get the donkeys and return them  home!

So Saul goes on the road. He looked here and there, and the donkeys were not there. He looked over there and over here, and the donkeys were not there. Finally, the servant travelling with Saul says, “Let’s go ask the seer in town!” The seer was the prophet Samuel.

Saul travels to the seer, Samuel. Samuel tells Saul that he is destined to control the future of the Israelites. Saul says, “I’m a Benjamite, from the smallest clan! Surely not me!”

Samuel and Saul eat and then Samuel anoints Saul to become the king. Samuel then sends Saul on his way home.

Saul travels home with Samuel’s instructions. He travels home and even encounters other prophets on the road, goes into a prophetic frenzy with them, and continues towards home.

Upon his arrival home, his uncle asks, “Where have you been?!”

Saul said, “Well, we couldn’t find the donkeys, so we visited Samuel.” Saul says nothing of the anointing by Samuel, the prophetic frenzy on the side of the road, or of being made king! Nothing!

Then, Samuel comes to seek Saul out. Samuel gathers all the tribes together to “determine who will be king.” Samuel “casts lots.” (Throws dice!) Among the gathered tribes, he throws his dice, and Lo! The Tribe of Benjamin is chosen. Among the families in the tribe of Benjamin, he throws his dice, and Lo! The family of Matri was chosen. Among the people in the family of Matri, Samuel throws his dice, and Lo! Saul is chosen king.

But Saul is not there! They go to find him and he is hiding in the supply closet. Then Saul becomes the king.

What questions did that raise for you? Where were you in the story? Who were you? What will you become?

Shalom & Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. 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 cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Desire and Intention

Today, I want to try a very simple meditation / body prayer. It involves movement of the arms, breathing, intention, and if you choose, your particular word for the divine or that which transcends.

Take a moment for contemplation. Turn your eyes inward and find two desires.

“You are what your deepest desire is.
As your desire is, so is your intention.
As your intention is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
~ Upanishads

First-your desire for yourself. This wish could be for love, for kindness, for healing. What you feel you need at this moment.

Second-your wish for the world.  This wish could be peace, love, kindness. What you feel is your unique gift of intention for the world. All that is present in the cosmos.

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
~ Micah

These desires will be your intentions.

As always, do this as you are able.

Sit comfortably however you like. Be aware of the earth supporting you. Take a moment to feel the groundedness and the ground of all being.

The breathing / motion pattern is this:

Arms loosely at sides … Inhale … and move arms to overhead in a prayer position, (hands flattened together)

Hands Overhead, Prayer Position
Hands Overhead, Prayer Position

On exhale … Hands descend to chest / heart level while holding intention for self. Intentionally cross your eyes, your lips as you end at your heart.

Descending Towards the Heart
Descending Towards the Heart
"om"
“om”

Express, outloud or however you feel comfortable, the particular word that encompasses the divine for you. Divine being interconnectedness to all, that which transcends all, that which is lived within, or the languaging that you choose. This could be the Sanskrit “om” (pictured), the Aramaic “abwoon” which is father, or any of the myriad words that are symbols that stand in for the divine.

Hands at heart level … Inhale

On exhale … Hands push outward, forward and go slowly to the sides (right arm going right / left arm going left). Do this while holding your intention for the world.

Pushing Intention To the World
Pushing Intention To the World

Express, outloud or however you feel comfortable, the particular word that encompasses the divine for you.

Bring your arms gently down to your sides.

Repeat this simple meditation for as long as it feels comfortable to do so. If you desire, close the meditation with an Amen (“so be it.”)

Shalom & Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. 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 cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Meditations of Our Hearts

I am saddened and deeply troubled by the Trayvon Martin case verdict. Mark Sandlin, a new Facebook friend of mine, offered the below. I have decided to add it to what I previously planned to publish. What I originally offered is a meditation based on a Psalm using very simple body prayer-a video that I put together. I thought about simply letting the video go for another day, but I think I, at least, need the reminder that there is something greater than the imperfection that we find in our daily living.

Questions?

Will anyone’s soul rest well tonight?
Will justice feel it was served?
Will a weary nation rest easy?
Can it believe its truths still hold true?
That all are created equal?
That truth is our nation’s highest good?
How can we sleep?
How can we slumber
when justice seems to be a game
and innocence has become relative?
Will we not grow restless?
Will our tears not matter?
Shall we continue our malaise?
Is our discontent so flaccid
that is ends in a Facebook post?
Is our will so weak that it is eased
with nothing more than words on a page?
Is the cost of our inconvenience
truly more valuable than a life…
our rights…
our jobs…
the hungry…
the sick…
the poor…
minorities…
?
Will our souls rest well tonight?
Should they?
Will our discontent respond?
Or will it slumber?
Will we drown out our malcontent
with the drone of a television…
the buzz of a beer…
the mindless escape of Candy Crush…
the busyness of our lives…
?
Will we simply get over it…
When there are parents who cannot,
When children are starving,
When there are families being buried,
While men make laws about women’s bodies,
As rights which were received
at the cost of lives
are made a mockery
for the sake of the few…
will we rest well tonight?
Will we rest?

Mark writes for Huffington Post, Sojourners, and his own blog at The God Article. This is reprinted with permission.

My fair warning before the video–this is in my living room, not professionally done! Bear with me as I learn these new skills.  Shalom.

© 2013, post and video, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

MARK SANDLIN is an ordained PC(USA) minister currently serving at Vandalia Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Leftand blogs at The God Article. He has been featured on NPR’s The Story with Dick Gordon, PBS’s Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, and the upcoming documentary filmAmendment One.

terriTERRI 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!)

My Moment Of Zen

respiteIn a full to overflowing bathtub, I relax, soaking the ache out of legs and content to be surrounded by water. It’s not long before I slide down, legs crawling up the wall under the shower, head dipping below the surface. My right hand plugs my nose and my left hand covers my eyes like a sleep mask and water fills my ears.

I savor these few moments I have to just float in nothing.

The water amplifies noise but bends the sound waves into something more beautiful. Even the passing fire truck with its shrill siren and blaring horns sounds almost musical when passed through my warm, clear water. The rhythmic hum of the clothes dryer puts me in a trance and I enjoy this until my lungs ask politely and then not so politely if we can surface and take in some new, unused air.

I reluctantly rise up and gasp in a big breath and go under again. It’s just too delicious and quite addictive. This time I think about buying a snorkel so I can stay under the water and still breathe. I’ve considered buying a snorkel so I can stay under my bath water ever since I was a kid.

Even as a child I was drawn to the solace and quiet of being under water. One early evening as I was taking a bath and creating my own sensory isolation chamber, my mother walked in to check on me. As any protective mother of three children would do when presented with the sight of her youngest lying apparently lifeless in a bathtub full of water, she freaked out.

My mother yanked me from the water and shook me hard, shouting my name. I unplugged my nose and uncovered my eyes and said, “What?”

I got a well-deserved and thorough chewing out and was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to simply slide under the water and remain motionless. Ever.

When I later emerged from my bath and got dressed and ran a comb through my unruly long hair, I was confronted by my father who ripped into me for scaring my mother.

I always thought that was quite unfair. I didn’t set out to intentionally scare my mother. I simply wanted a moment, if even half a minute, where I didn’t exist in the world. Where everything was blocked out and time slowed down and sounds bent in pleasing ways.

My solution thereafter was to continue to dunk my head well below water and plug my nose with my right hand. With my left hand, I would raise it above the surface and wave it like the Queen on parade so that any passerby would know I was still conscious, just submerged.

This seemed a suitable solution for all. A nice compromise.

I’ve always wanted to visit one of those sensory isolation tanks. It sounds like a little slice of heaven to me. Floating in a tank with no light and hardly any sound and just the quiet to embrace me. Yes, I think I would love this very much.

The Good Man thinks I’m half a bubble off level to consider this. “I always figure while you are locked in there, the people outside will steal your stuff or do something weird,” he says.

This is how his mind works. This is not how my mind works.

A few years ago we visited a spa in Calistoga, California. The spas in Calistoga are known for their mud baths. You give them money and they allow you to slide your nekkid body into a warm tub of slightly sulphurous goo. The weight of the mud resists your body, you actually have to dig in there. Once settled, you are surrounded and suspended and oh my goodness I could have stayed in there for weeks.

The Good Man did not feel as kindly toward the mud. He said he was antsy the whole time he was in there and ready to vault from the tub. He couldn’t wait for it to be over. I never wanted it to stop.

Perhaps it’s something Freudian that I like to slip into warm suspended places and forget about things for a while. I choose to think it rather normal to want to seek out genuine moments of respite where the world and all its crazy spinning and shouting and clanking and cruelty goes away, for just a moment. For as long as it takes me to hold my breath.

Until I buy a snorkel.

– Karen Fayeth

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2013, all rights reserved. Bathtub image found on Rodale.com and all rights remain with the website and photographer. Bio photograph by Claudia Akers.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

YOUR HEART IS THE SIZE OF AN OCEAN

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī

Sufi Mystic and Poet (1207 A.D. – 1273 A.D.

Born in what is now Afghanistan, Died in Turkey

Your heart is the size of an ocean.

Go find yourself in its hidden depths.

Rumi


Credit ~ The illustration of Rumi is in the U. S public domain.
Video ~ upload to YouTube by Mevlanaism.