Happy New Year 2016, Part III – Gratitudes not Resolutions

O LORD my God, I will give thanks to thee forever.
— Psalm 30:12b

card-with-new-year

It used to be that every year I would make out a list of New Year’s resolutions just like everyone else. The reality of those resolutions was I put the list in safe place and promptly forgot all about them, just like everyone else I know. A couple of years back I changed practice for New Year’s, instead of resolutions I started listing what I was grateful for from the Old Year.

I no longer feel guilty about not keeping promises to myself and speaking gratitude helps me to see the past year in a positive perspective. So here are my top 10 gratitude’s for New Years day 2016:

First of all I am grateful for John my beloved husband, best friend, and all around good company.

I am grateful for the presence of my furry and feathered friends. They have helped me to laugh when I least wanted to and they are a calming presence each day of the year.

I am grateful for my family; John’s 3 sons; our beautiful grandchildren Shannon and Amelia, Alex and Liam; my cousins who have made me laugh and so grateful that we have reconnected. Each and every one of you has brought joy into my life in so many ways.

I am also grateful for the Skype calls from Mark, Laura, Liam, and Amelia, who live in Boston. Amelia and Liam I love all of your antics and learning what you are up as you are growing up. Liam practice hard on those drums so that when we come the next time you can show us your progress. Amelia send me some of your dress designs, I would love to see what you are thinking of. Each of you are talented and amazing.

I am especially grateful for the Laura’s presence in my life. You my dear daughter-in-law are a treasure.

I am grateful for the kindness of strangers from all over the world. Their help when I needed it on our South Pacific adventure last year made the trip just that much more enjoyable.

I am grateful for caring and skillful medical professionals: Dr. Alberts who operated on my back, the Nursing staff at Stevens Hospital who made a difficult time easier, Physical therapists who encouraged me to work harder so that I would successfully recover from surgery.

I am grateful for the Faith community at Queen Anne Christian Church who have show me and John so much love and friendship.

I am grateful for my In-Care-Committee who encouraged me to search deep within myself and who helped me to see myself as I am instead of how everyone see me.

I am grateful for the friendship of so many people that if I were to name them I would certainly forget someone, so from the bottom of my heart I love you all.

So those are my top 10 gratitude, of course I have many more. The listing of them will take all day on New Year’s Day but these are the most important ones. If you were to list your gratitude’s for 2015 what would they be? How would remembering them change your how you view the past year and how you anticipate the next?

My prayer for each of you is a year full of grace so that next New Year’s day it takes you 2 days to recite them. Have a Happy, Grace Filled New Year!

© 2015, words, Ruth Jewel, All rights reserved; illustration courtesy of Larisa Koshkina, Public Domain Pictures.net

Editor’s note: Ruth is a member of The Bardo Group Beguines core team.  Her personal blog is A Quiet Walk.  She also posts once a week on spiritual practice at our sister site, Beguine Again.

Climate Care as Spiritual Practice

Editorial Note:  With this piece by Terri Stewart (Cloaked Monk) we announce our focus for 100,000 Poets (and others) for Change 2016, environment and environmental justice. We continue our Facebook group discussion page. Let us know if you would like to be included in that.

Terri is also the lead for the upcoming November issue of The BeZine. The theme for that zine issue, which will publish on the 15th of November, is at-risk youth. 

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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

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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!

Shalom and Amen!

Terri Stewart

by Terri Stewart

© 2014, words and illustration, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terrisignoffblog

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

terrisignoffblog

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.

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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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One Perspective on Understanding Our Religious Traditions

BROTHER DAVID STEINDL-RAST (b. 1926)

Viennese, Catholic Benedictine Monk

Br. David is notable for his work fostering dialogue among the faiths and for exploring the congruence between science and spirituality. Early in his career he was officially designated by his abbot to pursue Catholic-Buddhist dialogue. He studied with several well-known Zen masters. He is the author of feature articles, chapter contributions to collections, and books. Among the most notable are Belonging to the Universe (with Frijof Capra) and The Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day (with Sharon Lebell). Br. David is the co-founder of A Network for Grateful Living, dedicated to the life-transforming character of gratitude.

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

terrisignoffblog

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

terrisignoffblog

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!

terrisignoffblog

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

Religiousless confessions

photo-40I was born without a religion, like all people. Religion was something that was introduced in my life slowly, first through the baptism which I was given when I was several months old (I’m a Christian…at least in theory:)), then through the habits with which my grandmother accustomed me (the proverbial Sunday church during the first few years of my life) and the prayers which she taught me. And that’s about as far as religion ever managed to get into my life. Let me highlight again the use of words: religion, not faith. These two are two very different things.

In time religion got out of my life. I slowly became…allergic, let’s say, to church and priests and dogmas and rules to be followed only on paper. I got tired of the saying “do what the priest says, not what the priest does”. It all felt fake, lacking substance, excessively focused on form instead of essence. It was too much about the ritual and too little about faith, too much about objects and too little about people, too much about fear and too little about awareness. And, above all, it was inconstant. The god preached by priests and their religion was one day loving and caring and next day angry and vengeful – which to me seemed more like a bipolar human being behavior, lacked of balance, of poise. The god I had in mind was a being made of a totally different substance, and the patterns provided by religion were somehow too small for it, unable to embrace it.

So my atoms rebelled against the concept of religion as it was and still is, because often religion was and is just a pretext for ignorance and for aspects that have nothing in common with a supposed god. Not just once church felt like a pyramid where the top stone couldn’t care less about the lower stones and just enjoys its high placement, considering it’s only natural for it to be there. (Although, that top stone should be careful, because if the lowest layer of stones, the basis, is broken and unable to hold the entire weight, the rest of the pyramid collapses in a blink.) So, the religion preached by such a church was no religion for me – or for the god I had in mind. Actually, it shouldn’t be a religion for anyone at all. (Yeah, I know, I’m doomed, I’ll burn in hell for the blasphemy I’m writing here :P. BUT, those of you willing to throw the stone, keep in mind that I’m talking about RELIGION, not about GOD :)).

Now, the interesting part in all this is that, while religion followed the exit path, there came in faith. Faith not necessarily in a god above us all, but in a universal connection between all living things, seen or unseen. Faith in the capacity of human kind to learn and grow and understand its role, no matter how limited, in this world of ours. Faith in the beauty of the energy flowing through each and every one of us. Now, maybe this universal, interconnected energy, responds to the name of “god” for some people. Maybe, for others, it’s nothing more than a proof of physics 101, or not even that. But I’ve seen totally unreligious acts of kindness done by people from all corners of the world – and that matters beyond, FAR beyond any religious concept at all.

So, just a rhetoric question to end this small rambling of mine: why can’t humanity be the god of humanity?!

– Liliana Negoi

© 2014, essay, Liliana Negoi, and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All right reserved

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

BARDO NEWS: Blessings on Ramadan; “Begin Again” blog expands its writer base and gets funding; artfully eco-friendly . . ….

Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license
Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license

BEST WISHES to our Moslem contributors, readers and friends all over the globe on this: the first day of Ramadan. ~ During this month, 1.6 million Muslims – or 23% of the world population according to Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project – observe a strict fast if they are of an age and healthy enough to do so. The fast extends each day from sunrise to sunset. The month-long fasting ends with a feasting celebration, Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the fast), which falls on 28 July this year.

Britain’s David Cameron has this to say:

Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!

May everyday find you in good health!

Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet
Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet (c) Kazim Ali

CELEBRATING POET, NOVELIST, ESSAYIST and EDUCATOR, KAZIM ALI ~  who was born in the UK, is from an Indian Islamic household, and was educated at State University of New York (SUNY) and at New York University. Currently he lives in Oregon.

Of his most recent poetry collection, The Fortieth Day, the Library Journal review says that Ali …

“continues his task of creating a rejuvenated language that longs to be liberated from the weight of daily routine and the power of dogmatic usage . . . writing in the tradition of Wallace Stevens, Ali is clearly a poet of ideas and symbols, yet his words remain living entities within the texture of the poem.”


Of his essay collection, Fasting for Ramadan, Notes on Spiritual Practice, Tupelo Press states …

“Kazim Ali’s searching descriptions of the Ramadan sensibility and its arduous but liberating annual rite of communal fasting is sure to be a revelation to many readers — intellectually illuminating and aesthetically exhilarating.

“Fasting for Ramadan is structured as a chronicle of daily meditations, during two cycles of the 30-day rite of daytime abstinence required by Ramadan for purgation and prayer. Estranged in certain ways from his family’s cultural traditions when he was younger, Ali has in recent years re-embraced the Ramadan ritual, and brings to this rediscovery an extraordinary delicacy of reflection, a powerfully inquiring mind, and the linguistic precision and ardor of a superb poet.”

Unknown-8Ali’s poem Ramadan is from his collection, The Fortieth Day.

You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—

– Kazim Ali
“Ramadan” except from The Fortieth Day. © 2008 by Kazim Ali, posted here under fair use

“Poetry is the smallest way – it is a small, small way, but it is a way indeed – that the individual body can express its own personhood and value in the face of faceless systems.” Kazim Ali

Terri Stewart
Terri Stewart (c) Terri

TERRI STEWART REPORTS on the expansion of Begin Again, the blog she started and hosts ~ “First news, welcome Bruce Chittick to the team of writers! Woot!! He will bring an awesome perspective to Sundays and inspiration. I can’t wait to get to know his writing. I experience him to be a thoughtful, gracious, inclusive kind of guy. His first post went live on the 22nd!

“And, in other exciting news, we got some funding. The United Methodist Church, in an expansive move towards trying new things (although we aren’t exactly NEW) has decided to fund my position at BeguineAgain.com AND all the technology for the next year and a half. This gives me & us time to build a class & subscription base to move towards an independent funding mechanism. This is awesome on so many counts. They know what we have been publishing and are willing to sit in that tension. Amazeballs! And it also lets the pressure off of me regarding all the work I am doing to create alternate funding mechanisms for my own family’s subsistence. Whew. Chaplaincy pays like zero. It is being billed as an online spiritual community. Very vague.

” … I can’t wait to try some of the new technology that will be available now that I can upgrade us to WordPress pro!”

Rose at Dusk (c) Jamie Dedes
Rose at Dusk (c)  Jamie Dedes

ARTFULLY ECO-FRIENDLY

Dutch Nature Artist, PAULA KUITENBROUWER (Mindful Drawing) ~ a long-standing member of The Bardo Group and a contributor to the blog has sent out a call to all of us  – team members, bloggers and friends – to initiate discussions of how and why we are living and working in an eco-conscious ways and how we can use our art and our blogs to encourage environmentally sound practices. Paula shares on her Guilt-Free Art Page …

“My original drawings are drawn on acid free paper. In the process of making acid free paper fewer corrosive chemicals are used, which makes acid free paper significantly environmentally friendlier than normal paper.

“For packing my fine art cards and reproductions, I use biodegradable plastic. I like my art work to be as environmentally friendly as possible and I select my products carefully. My paint-brushes are synthetic without animal hair.”

Other eco-friendly living practices that might be shared would include the ways in which we order our lives to enable no-or-minimal use of cars, mindful shopping (buying only what we need and buying from bulk containers rather than packaged items, buying locally produced food and other products), using biodegradable cleaning products and reusable shopping bags. Yes! All this and how about telling us about your advocacy efforts?

We invite you share your thoughts on this in the comments section here, on your own blogs (then leave us a link under any current post so that we can publicize it in the next Bardo News) or as submissions to The Bardo Group blog this month. (If you are not a core-team member, please email us at  bardogroup@gmail.com.)

Coming up:

… and many more goodies from our Core Team, readers and guests. This month’s guests will include:

Poet K.A. Brace (The Mirror Obscura) and Jewelry-Maker, Writer, Photographer Isadora (Inside the Mind of Isadora)

bardogroup@gmail.com

The Bardo Group Facebook Page

In the spirit of peace, love and community,

THE BARDO GROUP

I Still Have Legs

I wish I was more thankful for things before I lost my vision.

Driving, reading, colors, remembering faces, seeing the stars, being independent, my job, looking at photographs, watching my nephews grow up, seeing what I will look like older, nature, television, writing something down on a piece of paper, an art gallery, seeing the wonders of the world.

Perhaps I am more thankful now. Perhaps my lack of vision gave me more to be thankful for.

Yes my feet burn on the hot pavement. I still have legs.

The annoying sounds during the meditation. I still have hearing.

I have a migraine today. I am still alive!

Using my white cane down the busy street, I am present and aware.

A Mini-Gallery of Photographs from Wendy Rose Alger, Fine Art Photographer

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© 2014, words and photographs, Wendy Rose Alger, All Rights Reserved

wra201110071514-1bw-mWENDY ROSE ALGER ~ is a fine art photographer born in 1972 in Chicago, Illinois. Wendy now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. She studied photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where she learned manual SLR and how to use a darkroom. These days Wendy uses a digital camera. With a digital camera she can forego a dark room and check her photographs in the camera. Thanks to her digital camera, adaptive technologies, and a variety of computer applications for photography, she is able to pursue her passion despite the vision limitations that result from retinitis pigmentosa. Her website is Wendy Rose Alger, where you can view a more complete gallery of her photographs.

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

 

A Brief Meditation on Grace and Comfort

GardensAfter a cool, damp week the sun is out! June is in full bloom, our perennial gardens bursting with color. In the the kitchen garden rows of tender plants have appeared in the raised beds, and we are eating mesclun. Lovely!

Here in Vermont the trees are a dense, lush green. Plants need to take full advantage of our four to five months of warm weather, and go about the tasks of reproducing and storing energy with vigor. In just a few weeks, by late July, the foliage will begin to thin, already preparing for the autumn to come.

We have stopped filling the feeders as the birds have other food sources available to them. Now that the feeders are empty we will likely take them down and store them until October. Come the first chilly days of autumn the birds will remind us to bring out the food; we have a good working relationship!

I recently read a post on Australis Incognita, an interview with an Australian Aboriginal elder, Uncle Paul Chapman. The essence of the conversation is that we learn who we are in the world by paying attention to the landscape and Nature. There is an ancient Indigenous knowing that we can’t figure it out by turning totally inward, as that is out of balance. We learn from bridging the worlds of inner an outer, self and landscape.

Reading Uncle Paul’s words reminded me we are of the landscapes we inhabit; we even have our own internal seasons. I often suggest to students that after we watch for a while we may begin to notice that sometimes the inside and outside worlds are in sync, other times not. Lately I have found myself diving deeply into the interior, even as I engage the Natural world as it bursts into furious activity.

Lately, I seem able to stand with a foot in each world, shifting between them as need be, and am rewarded by moments of grace. Grace reminds me to be grateful for my life, family and friends, and the Beauty surrounding me, even as I feel disappointed and angry with much that is unfurling in the world. Grace encourages me to be concerned for my grandchildren, and curious as to how we humans will manage the road ahead.

In dark, difficult, times it is easy to forget that summer invariably follows winter, and life sprouts anew when given any opportunity. This will be so as long as there is life on our precious blue-green planet. May we take refuge and comfort in that.

Evening-Sky The sun has broken through and the sky is a brilliant blue. Over the lake a layer of clouds, white and bubbly, hangs. Trees and gardens are  abloom, and the scent of lily-of-the-valley and lilac saturates the air. The day is beautiful. May we walk through this day in Beauty, together.

– Michael Watson

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

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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“2009 Table of Hotness” Maxim, 6 May 2009. http://www.maxim.com/amg/girls/articles/79154/2009-hot-100.html

Ara, Flora, and Taylor. Girls Making Media: Episode 4, “Body Image.” Written and presented by Ara, Flora, and Taylor. Produced by WomanKraft. Youtube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4GoHhnNhm4

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Erickson, Latha. “Body-image pressure inundates teen girls” CNN.com, 15 March 2007. http://articles.cnn.com/2007-03-15/health/BK.girls.body.image_1_body-image-middle-school-girls-dads-daughters?_s=PM:HEALTH

Gaudiani, Caroline. “Fact Sheet: Women and Eating Disorders” National Organization for Women, http://loveyourbody.nowfoundation.org/factsheet_2.html.

Makkai, Katie. Pretty. Written and presented by Katie Makkai. 3 min., 29 sec. National Poetry Slam, 2002. Youtube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0.

“Model Controversies: Filippa Hamilton” MSN.com, 17 August 2010. http://lifestyle.in.msn.com/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=4272433&page=3

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The Macc Lads. “Ugly Women.” From Beer to Eternity. Castle Music UK, 2007.

“Top 5 Surgical Cosmetic Procedures 2008.” American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. http://www.cosmeticplasticsurgerystatistics.com/statistics.html#2008-GRAPHS

“Who is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World?” Vanity Fair, 30 March 2009. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2009/03/who-is-the-most-beautiful-woman-alive.html

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Cole, Thomas, R., The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America, The Body As an Instrument of Control, “Women, Aging and Ethics”, New York: Cambridge University Press, Inc. 1992.

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Chrissy Fitness, July 25, 2008, “Nadine Vlazquez”, http://christyfitnessblogspot.com/2008/07/nadine- vlazquez-body.html

Prescott, Rebecca. “2010 Body Building Steroids and Great Alternatives”, http://www.fitnessfuntastic.com/BodyBuildingSterioids.html

Listal Most Beautiful Female Faces, “Freida Pinto”, January 8, 2010, http://www.listal.com/list/most- beautiful-female-faces

Scott Hoover Photography, Saturday, March 26, 2009, “Male Model and Actor Corey Grant” , http://scotthooverphotogrpahy.blogspot.com/2009/03/corey-grant.html

Shutter Stock Images, “Energetic Girl Dancing”, http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-10071150/stock- photo-of-energetic-girl-dancing-in-the-night-club-with-her-boyfriend-looking-at-her.html

Bloggy Business Today, February 4, 2008, Super Bowl Advertisement, http://bloggybiz.com/business- tools/super-bowl-save-by-tv-commercials.html

Inspirational Quotes, 2010 ”Budweiser, King of Beers”, http://www.inspirational-quotes-short-funny- stuff.com/funny-ads.html

Pierce Mattie Public Relations New York and Los Angeles, November 29, 2006, “Package Wrapping” http://www.piercemattie.com/blogs/trends

Blogger retrieved from Google Search, Titled “How Far Will Beauty Take Us?”, Victoria Secret Cover http://www.d.umn.edu/~loche006/beauty.html

False Eye Lashes Info, Davidoff Echo Woman, “Ladies Perfume for Summer”, http://falseeyelashesinfo.com/ladies/perfume/

The Scented Salamander, 2008 New Fragrances, Jennifer Lopez “Deseo for Men”, http://www.mimifroufrou.com/scentedalamander/2008/05/jennifer_lopez_for_men_2.html

Smith, Zach, Indy Week.com, August 11, 2010 “In it’s 15th Year, the N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has mainstream clout”, Photo courtesy of MAD STU MEDIA, documentary “Gen Silent”, http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/in-its-15th-year-the-nc-gay-and-lesbian-film-festival-has- mainstream-clout/Content?09d=1594193

Wagner, John, The Hallmark Shoebox Collection, “I Keep Hitting Escape”, http://www.tcnj.edu/~hofmann/Maxine/maxine.htm e-Forwards.com, posted by John, “The Not So Golden Years”, http://www.e- forwards.com/2009/12/not-so-golden-years

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Burkhard, Brian, R., Your Funeral Guy, March 29k, 2010 “Funeral News with the Consumer in Mind”, http://yourfuneralguy.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/neptune-socieity-ad-another- cremation-marketing-blunderyourfuneralguy.html

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http://www.terrafolia.ca/flowers-seniors.html (orange shirt)

Brown Douglas, Kelly. What’s Faith Got to Do with It? Black Bodies/Christian Souls. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY, 2005.

Dennen, Bret. There is so Much More. So Much More. Dualtone Music Group, 2006.

McFague, Sallie. A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2008.

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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 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.

 

 

Sacred Space in Photography: Perspective

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.

Perspective is how we look at things. In a lot of ways it can be correlated with our privilege. When we have a lot of privilege in terms of social, economic, and political capital, we tend to see things from an empowered or “power over” perspective. When we have don’t have a lot of privilege, we tend to see things from a “power under” perspective. So our perspective on life or power placement has a lot to do with how we encounter others.

In my religious tradition, and in most spiritual movements (in my understanding), there is a movement to put power down and to empower those who have little power. Just a sampling:

  • Christianity has the beatitudes as a starting point,
  • Islam has the practice of charity,
  • Judaism has the call to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among us,
  • Buddhism feels it is important to support the poor and needy,
  • Hinduism practices that all life forms are respected and should be treated well.
  • Baha’i faith which embraces loving kindness for all life forms and truth in all sacred scriptures (thank you to readers for adding on!)

And it goes on! So it seems that in the great religious traditions, the practice of caring for those who are among “the lost, the least, and the lonely” is of paramount importance. I think the challenge is moving from a position of “power over” to a position of “power with.” This involves a change of perspective. (See, I’m getting to the photographic point!)

I think that if our spiritual practices support our daily living, we will have more effective daily living! If we need to work on finding different perspectives from “power over,” then one way to do it is through photography as a spiritual practice.

How we see things tells a story. Perspective is a spiritual practice and can be embodied in our photography practice. How does it change your view if, instead of being up high as an adult, you crouched down or laid down? One recent photo I took is a great example for perspective. One of my friend’s comment was: “I wish I had a mouse on a skateboard!” Which brought an even new viewpoint because I definitely would not have thought of that! However, once she said that, I now have a perpetual picture of a mouse playing on the below log.

perspective

To get this photo, I had to crouch way down onto the log and become one with the dirt. It looks way cool from here. The photo from standing up is not nearly as fun. It loses the “going on forever” perspective.

Over time, I’ve gotten better at thinking of doing this—of finding new perspectives. The same is true in my life—almost to a fault! I might over-identify with some of my people who are among the lost, the least, and the lonely. Sometimes. But by noticing new perspectives in photography, it models for me new perspectives in my spiritual life and then new perspectives in my lived life.

  • See the world in a new way
  • See the divine in a new way
  • See others in a new way

Below are three photos of trees—the same trees with different perspectives (on the same hike). I think each one tells a different story.

treecollage

Applying this to the ideas of perspective & our story as embodied in relationships of power over, power with, or power under—how can we develop the flexibility to enter into another perspective?

You never know what you will see when you begin to enter into another perspective. I found this lovely leaf cradling a little tiny leaf. How beautiful! And it makes me remember the way we should cradle one another.

leafinleaf

Who will you cradle today by seeing something with a new perspective?

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.

 

Sacred Space in the Frame

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.

Thomas Merton has a photograph he titled “Sky Hook.” He wrote about it, “It is the only known picture of God.” It is definitely not what you would expect! No heavenly skies, no angels, no beard. What was Merton thinking…a simply construction hook hanging from the sky towards the earth. (You can see the photo many places on the internet, but I couldn’t find a place with clear permissions.)

Often we see photos that prompt us to stop, look, and to appreciate what we have seen but also to wonder about something more. That something more can be something bigger or something smaller. My new friend and photographer, Paul Jeffrey, takes photos for the United Methodist Church for the General Board of Global Ministries—yes! He is a photographer-missionary. He typically focuses on the beauty and stories found in people. There is a photo of a young child in a box (all kids like to sit in boxes, no matter where they are in the world!)  He recently shared this photo with us in a small group and talked about the story. He said there was a huge reaction to the photo. Such a beautiful, young child abandoned in a box! What the photo does not show is that the family was just out of the frame.

How we frame our photographs tells a story.

What if Merton’s photo had the construction equipment in it? What if Jeffrey’s photo had the family in it? Would it tell a different story? Would that story be better? Worse? More effective? Less effective? What does this say about how we frame the stories of our own lives?

Framing is a spiritual practice. Or at least knowing what we are cutting from the frame. If we willingly cut off parts of the frame to focus our attention onto another part, that is fine. For the moment. But if we willingly cut of parts of the frame and never return to the whole, something is lost. I am thinking, in particular, of people who do things like cutting science out of their lives or people who cannot see the whole spectrum of society. When we get caught up in our own particularity, we forget the universal journey. And we forget that the child in a box has a loving, concerned family.

Below is a collage of one of my photos that I framed in two different ways. They tell completely different stories, in my opinion!

birdcollage

You don’t even have to be a photographer to understand the importance of framing. Hold your hands up around your face, blocking parts of your viewing field, and you will be able to frame your vision. Sitting right where you are!

In photography, we can say, “Where does framing help tell the story? Where does it hurt the story?”

In our lives we can say,

Where has framing helped you tell your own story? Where has it hurt you?

I’d love it if you would share your blog and perhaps a photo comparing two different ways of framing. That would be wonderful! 

birdatcemetary

    Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
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.