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.

Empty Space as an Aesthetic Significance

I’ve read an intriguing quote in Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama;

‘The importance of ‘empty’ space in the presentation of Japanese cuisine can scarcely be exaggerated. Receptacles are never filled to the brim, but are left with a certain margin of emptiness- emptiness of an aesthetic significance comparable to that in a Zen ink painting‘.

(Chef Masaru Yammamoto).

Considering the importance of empty space is what I do when I draw or paint. Often an empty space is needed to guide the viewer to the place that needs his attention. Other times, empty space is filled with suspense. Because empty space can create guidance, tension and calm contemplation, it is full of possibility.

Isn’t possibility what emptiness is? The emptiness or absence of sound means a bird can fill it with its song. Emptiness as possibility works in compositions exactly the same. An empty place can be filled in or left open.

It is important to notice what exists in an empty space. If I paint a bird on the left side of my drawing looking at the right, what is the bird looking at? The empty space isn’t empty at all. It is full of possibilities. Is the bird looking at a mate? Or a prowling cat? Not filling up an empty space often works well; it adds more possibility, tension or imagination to a painting. Other times a large empty space is too dominating or too much a void, in that case, doing something with it is better. It is a place that offers calm contemplation, leave it open.

If you are a home educator, don’t teach you child that the whole page or canvas needs to be filled in. (The only reason why you should offer an art assignment in which nobody is allowed to leave the class room before his paper is completely covered, is when your students need to overcome shyness, self restrained, or inhibition).

If you are a creative therapist or an understanding friend, sit down with your client or friend, and analyse his doodle or drawing by asking what is going on in its empty space. Talk, investigate, and dream together. You will be surprised how many possibilities or interpretations will emerge.

If you are a parent and your young child is proudly showing you a painting, play with your child. Ask what is going on with the objects that are drawn, and what is happening within the empty space. Then built a story on what the child tells you. Your child will charm and entertain you with pure child fantasies. Empty spaces are full possibilities.

You thought empty space is boring or shows a lack of imagination? Or a bad composition? Certainly not always, often quite the opposite.

Returning to the book on Japanese food; I always dread the moment when I have to stop drawing in order to prepare a dinner. From now on, I will plan to continue my mindful meditation by bringing aesthetic principles into my kitchen.

– Paula Kuitenbrouwer

© 2013, essay and photographs and artwork (above and below), Paula Kuitenbrouwer, All rights reserved

birdcardsPAULA KUITENBROUWER ~ is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and a Dutch nature artist living in The Netherlands and sharing her work with us on her blog, Mindful Drawing and on her website.   In addition to art, Paula’s main interest is philosophy. She studied at the University of Utrecht and Amsterdam. She has lived in Eastern Europe and in Asia. Paula says that in Korea, “my family lived next to a Buddhist temple. In the early morning we would hear the monks chanting. During my hours of sauntering with my daughter through the beautiful temple gardens, I felt a blissful happiness that I try to capture in my drawings.” Paula sometimes teaches children’s art classes. She lives with her husband and daughter and close to her father. You can view her portfolio of mindful drawings HERE.

Sacred Space in the Doorway

Often, in religion-land, we talk (I talk) about being created in the image of God. Imago Dei. I usually think about this in terms of other people. I look and I see a beautiful youth, a reflection of the divine, and know that they are loved and are love.

But what about looking at myself?

Monday, I was at the IRS. Ugh. I have had my identity stolen. I needed to prove to the IRS I was who I said I was so that they would let H&R Block file my taxes. The proving part was easy, and a criminal case has been opened. What was hard was the waiting. And the human hubris.

Sunday, I was at Lake Washington UMC, presiding and preaching. It was a blast and I tackled a difficult subject–radical nonviolence. Especially, the nonviolence that begins with myself–interior nonviolence. I was greatly moved when a woman talked to me afterwards about now hearing the internal put-downs as doing violence to herself. “Awesome!” I thought. And I was really feeling it–this tug towards nonviolent action that starts with yourself.

Monday, waiting in line at the IRS, there were 40 people jammed into a little office and 40 people waiting in the hallway of the office building the IRS rents space in. Then the vacuum lady came. She said, “Everybody get out of the hallway now! Get inside!

Confusion amongst the people.

“Get inside or go downstairs!”

She just wanted to vacuum and the company rules are that no vacuuming can occur unless there are zero people in the hallway. Some liability issue with the cord and people tripping. :-/

I looked at the amount of people jammed into the office and thought, “There is no way. This is unsafe, someone will get hurt.” And I thought of going downstairs and losing my place in line, and I thought, “There is no way I am losing my place in line.” And there may have been curse words interspersed in there.

I said, “It is unsafe, capacity in this office is exceeded.” I then stood on the edge of the doorway between the office and the hallway. I now view that doorway as a liminal space–a sacred space of potentiality.

She said, “I will shut the doors to the office.”

I thought, “Bring it!

How quickly I devolved from nonviolence to violence in my thinking and communication. At least my internal communication. I didn’t say anything to her, but I am sure that my stance and eyes communicated all that needed to be said. Which was, “Call the cops on me–I don’t care.” Yep. I was willing to risk arrest so that I would not lose my place in line at the IRS. That may or may not be bordering on the ridiculous.

The upshot is, where do we see the divine? Is it in perfected behavior? In the “love” and “patience” and “serenity?” Or can we see it in the “anger” and “frustration?” Because if we are honestly made in the image of the Divine, then those must be qualities that come from God!

Anyway, after the vacuum-lady left, the IRS called a bunch of numbers and we were all confused as to who they were because nobody came when the numbers were called (some people actually did go downstairs). Until one number was called and we all knew who it was–a family with little kids. And we knew that they had gone downstairs. People spoke up. They were willing to extend their wait in line to see that the injustice of losing their place in line was righted. The staff went downstairs and got the family, taking more of their time when they had a bunch more people impatiently waiting. This family was cared for.

Maybe that is where we see the best of the imago dei. The willingness to extend our own discomfort to ensure that justice is done.

“The Lonely Vacuum of Space ”This Sucks” by JD Hancock CC BY 2.0 at Flickr.com
The Lonely Vacuum of Space
”This Sucks”
by JD Hancock
CC BY 2.0 at Flickr.com

Post by Terri Stewart (c) 2014, originally posted at www.BeguineAgain.com

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 a Phrase

I think it is fair to say that most of us here are word people. I appreciate hearing fun words, seeing a well-turned phrase, being sucked into a surplus of meaning…and wonder. Today, I heard a phrase that has captured my imagination and has launched a poetic exploration along with finding an image that I thought expressed the spirit of the phrase. What is it?

The soul is such a shy creature.

That is utterly delicious to me. I hope you enjoy the following haiku and perhaps, you will offer a poetic exploration of your own in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

the soul

peeking ’round corners

stretching frail tendrils upward

such a shy creature

flower
by Terri Stewart (CC BY-NC-ND)

Post, poem, and photo, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

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 Opposition

I have been at a conference all week where we have been discussing how to organize ourselves to create social change. One of the most fun exercises what a Bible study linking the Book of Esther from Hebrew scripture with organizing for social change.

In the story of Esther, there is no mention of the Divine Name or any prayers offered, instead, it is a primer for racism and overcoming broken political systems.

Plot summary:

King Ahasuerus wants his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and show off her beauty to a bunch of drunk men (including the King). She says, “No.” She is then banished because she is a bad example for all women and all women must “know their place.”

Then the King is on a hunt for another wife. Mordecai pimps out Esther and Esther is brought into the royal harem. Why? She is beautiful, but primarily because she found favor with the eunuchs and maid servants. And they taught her how to find favor with the king.

Haman, one of the king’s guys, gets all pissy about Mordecai not bowing to him and asks to write a law that would destroy the Jews. The King is then able to rubber stamp the law (he gives away his ring) while never getting his own hands dirty.

When the new law passes, the Jews and Mordecai where sack cloth and mourn. Esther hears about the situation from the Eunuchs and encourages Mordecai to wear normal clothing. Mordecai then has the Eunuchs relay to her the situation (she was definitely isolated).

Esther convinces the King that this is a bad situation and the injustice that would have wiped out the Jews is fixed.

Yay! Injustice is fixed!

So, we all face injustice in our context. It may be threats to peace, the justice system, economics, poverty, etc. But we all face it! And some are actively working to correct injustice–creating sacred, healing, wholly, holy, space. In organizing ourselves, the question becomes, can we name:

  • Who are the Kings?
  • Who is the Queen who will lay down their power in order to maintain a just world?
  • Who are the Mordecais? Those who would be persecuted?
  • Who are the Esthers? The ones who know the King and can be educated as to a new way of living justly?
  • And who are the maids and Eunuchs? The ones who are also persecuted and underprivileged? Who may have sympathy for the justice issue?

What is wonderful about this is that it allows us to think creatively rather than to think that those with power are the only ones who can cause change. In this story, everyone becomes a change agent! Change for a more just world is another way of creating sacred space.

So mote it be!

And now for some inspiration from slam poetry, “Addressing Food Inequality.”

Post, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

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.

 

 

On gardening tools

gardening toolsI was doing some spring gardening a few days ago.  At some point I saw my mother-in-law (who was visiting at the time) grabbing the scissors in order to remove some withered branches from a bush. I heard her murmuring “that’s it, you waste the roots for nothing anyway”. I knew why she was doing this, and I also know she was right to do it, it was a simple gesture but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the days to come.

You see, when we look at a plant or a tree and we see a dead leaf or branch still attached to the body, we cut it down, because “it pointlessly consumes energy”. And it’s a good thing to do that, because the plant or tree, thus freed of a dry limb, can grow a new one instead. What it’s more difficult to understand is, since we’ve learned to do this to plants, why can’t we do this to ourselves? What prevents us to cut the sterile, dry, energy consuming parts of our lives, and grow new ones? I think we do (or better said, don’t do) that because we’re afraid of the pain. We’re afraid that it hurts to do that self-trimming, and we’re scared to death of what we may discover if we do that.

It’s easier to linger in that perpetual state of presumed wildness, slowly turning into a messy bush, suffocating the flowers with the ever growing thorns and blocking the light from reaching to our core. I know that, because, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one. You don’t need much to garden yourself and arrange your inner landscape; it’s only a few tools. Honesty first of all – raw, painful, cutting honesty. You look at yourself and see exactly what’s the pointlessly energy consuming part. Then there’s the willingness to fix things. You will also need patience with yourself, because nothing happens over night (oh well, sometimes it does, but those are exceptions), and last, but not least, love. You cannot do anything without love. This list of “gardening” tools can always adapt to the each person’s circumstances, the point is not just having them, but also using them. Yes, it will hurt. You may even bleed. But you are allowed to ask for help, and you are allowed to cry. You’d be amazed what marvels can a little self-gardening do :). And for heaven’s sake, if, for some untold reasons, you decide however to be a wild bush, then be a burning one, like the one from the story of Moses ;).

© 2014, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved The image was taken from http://www.finegardening.com/item/31544/the-basic-gardening-tools-guide-pick-up-your-weapon IMG_7667

LILIANA 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.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Sacred Space Wherever You Can Name It

A while ago, I was volunteering as a Spiritual Director with incarcerated women. As it so happens, working with the incarcerated us not always straight forward. Some of the things that impact the incarcerated are less education, unstable family systems, increased drug & alcohol use, and untreated mental illness.

One woman I worked with came to me for Spiritual Direction, but she was schizophrenic. The things we worked at were finding a concrete symbol of something that she could name as Love but that did not have her “hearing voices” or “listening for divine within” or anything at all like that! After all, coming from a time in life when she actively did hear voices, that was not something she trusted!

We hit upon the image of her teddy bear. That teddy bear encapsulated pure love for her. It was concrete and it helped her feel loved. That symbolized the spot where she could find sacred space.

What about you? Is there something ordinary that represents sacred space? A teddy bear? Book? Chair? What provides sacred, healing space that nobody else would suspect?

For me, that sacred space is often represented in words. Maybe my computer holds the sacred space. It is a window to a world of great wisdom and the receiver of my angst and wonderings as I process feelings through writing. Hmmm.

for an incarcerated mentally ill client

ghost town

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.

by "miracle design" at flickr.com CC (BY-ND)
by “miracle design”
at flickr.com
CC (BY-ND)

Post, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

Poem, Terri Stewart (c) 2010

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.

A Second Spiritual Experience – Part Two

During this time in November of 2005 I communed with a Great Horned Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk each who each resides in Forest Park.  One evening I was meant to take to the hawk, as an act of thanks, a chicken wing and place it upon a particular iron waist-high pole on the edge of the ball fields. It was Friday night. My husband kindly came with me to Straub’s the family grocery where I shop.  He hung back a bit somewhat embarrassed.  On Friday night the place is mobbed.  So, I got in line at the butcher’s counter and waited until my turn. There was a long wait. When it was finally my turn I ordered one chicken wing.  Everyone else in line hearing my request went nuts: “one chicken wing!”  Well no, actually, “just a half of a wing I did not want the drummie.”  People were looking at me in utter disbelief, as though I had wasted their collective time with purpose.  Once I had the wing I left for the park.  The problem there was that there were police everywhere.  It looked as though I was putting some garbage on a post.  But, I fulfilled the task and had no encounters with local law enforcement.  Aside from my request to God, the other thing that initiated my experience was my long conversation with a Vietnam Veteran.

What this experience in its entirety did for me; was to give to me the actual feelings that many war veterans experience during their times in war.  You might wonder: “how could that possibly be?”  I suspect that I was meant to feel what many soldiers felt during war, because I would later work with them at the VA.  For all of my life, veterans were persons to be thought of on Memorial Day and on Veteran’s day, period. I was conceived immediately after WWII.  So, my relation to veterans was not unusual. After my experience in which I sensed the emotional torment of those who have seen battle I was radically changed.  I studied war. I volunteered at the VA for several years and I gained a healthy respect and love for our country’s veterans. I might add I truly gained a deep respect and love for Vietnam Vets as they are of my generation. I also acquired abhorrence for war. I truly came to understand “love the warrior, hate the war.”  Most cannot enter into that cliché and act upon it. It is very tricky and very difficult for it is so political.   But my experience lacked all political thought or sense.

The other thing that I did was write about 20 poems about war, veterans, acts of war … really anything that came out of my experience that year.  My first poem titled: “A Certain Madness.” It came about during one particular writing class that I taught at the VA.  The poem follows.

A Certain Madness

Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frog, walking quietly as if wrapped within the cocoon of his own world.

War’s sad energy like a gray, heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each, reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.

Each man sat at the table abandoned. 
 “Just a word? Coffee please.  May we write yet?”

And then he stood.
 A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.

He shouted:  “Don’t you see them?
 There, in the corners … there is one in each corner.”

“How dare they come here?
 I ought-a know. 
I was with the CIA.”

Then he sat down defeated, again. 
 He seemed to relax until another
stream of madness crept out of his throat.

“I will NOT be giving you a sample today! 
 There will be no writing samples. 
 THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”

And I thought to myself: 
“Does the madness hide the pain? Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.”

© Liz Rice-Sosne

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

A Second Spiritual Experience – Part One

I feel privileged to be in the company of those who write here upon The Bardo.  It is an honor.  Though untrue, I often feel as though we write together.  That is comforting to me.

Spiritual experiences are by their very nature exceptionally private.  They can be difficult to speak of due to that private nature and due to the lack of an adequate lexicon.  I am not terribly private.  So, I would like to share one of my own experiences with you, as it radically changed my life.  It was 2005 and I had been retired for two years.  I served on several boards as a volunteer but otherwise I was bored.  So I will say to you before you read further – do not be offended by anything that I say.  This is a personal experience.  I am not proselytizing nor would I ever.  I am merely sharing.

I have never served in the military and I have never been to war.  The closest I came was in 1967-8 when formerly married and living on Okinawa, close to the war in Vietnam.  But that experience bears no relation to this experience.  This experience of which I speak was the second life changing spiritual experience that I have had within my lifetime. The first was Christian in nature in 1973.

This life-changing experience came to me via my plea one day to God: “What do you want me to do? What should I do now?”  At about the same time I began an ongoing conversation with a Vietnam Veteran, a former B-52 Bomber Pilot.  The experiences that followed were all a part the answer to my question. This experience was shamanic in nature. Shamanism is something that I studied in the 80s and 90s. This experience lasted about 6 weeks, it appeared to many that I might be having a “nervous breakdown.”  My friends were worried. My husband trusted me but worried nonetheless.  The experience was very dramatic, very painful and most ecstatic. I knew that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.  None-the-less, I hung on for dear life. It was extremely hard to remain grounded. To do so I engaged the services of three different people, a body-worker, an exercise therapist and a counselor.  I remember and will recount one particularly humorous thing that happened.  Tomorrow.

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

GET SERVICE, a message about compassion and understanding …


Courtesy of the Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, AR via friends Laurel D. and Brian B. Thank you!

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty-day Lenten season which honors Christ’s contemplative forty-days in the desert. Whether or not you are Christian or even religious, this is a good time of year to step back,  take a breath and prepare for your personal spring and renewal.

Sacred Space and Anam Cara

The concept of Anam Cara is “soul friend” or the Celtic belief would be “soul bonding.”  John O’Donohue writes in Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, “If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.” 

Anam cara accepts you are you are. As a beautifully created creature of love. They see your inner light and mirror it back to you. According to John O’Donahue, “…You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy and definition. When you are blessed with an Anam Cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: home.”

My awakening today, is the awareness of the love that we I give and share with Anam Cara. I offer to you this poem and ask you, “Have you seen your Anam Cara? How would you describe Anam Cara?”

anam cara

i have been meaning

to sew that quilt

together. squares

sitting side-by-side

unconnected by

physical thread.

each one a perfect

gift of solitary beauty.

she sits

in pieces

waiting and

dare I say

taunts me to change

her separateness into a

cohesive creation sewing

warmth into each stitch

from rags to riches

so to speak

such lovely pieces

held together in my heart

anam cara

i know what the finished

piece

would be with each square

clinging tightly to one

another.

and she calls.

complete me.

intertwine our threads.

behold

each square a perfected

gift of beauty. together.

then i know

beyond what is seen

we are already stitched

together

photo by Martina Winkel cc licensed ( BY ) flickr
photo by Martina Winkel
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr

(c) 2014, Terri Stewart

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’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.

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.BeguineAgain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.

Finding Sacred Space in the Story

Below is the beginning of a parable written by an unknown person. As an exercise of finding yourself and sacred space, please place yourself in the story from whatever perspective you feel speaks to you and finish the story! Are you a chicken? The eagle? The farmer? An unseen or unknown person? Let us know!

A long time ago in a remote valley, there lived a farmer. One day he got tired of the daily routine of running the farm and decided to climb the cliffs that brooded above the valley to see what lay beyond.

He climbed all day until he reached a ledge just below the top of the cliff; there, to his amazement was a nest, full of eggs.

Immediately he knew they were eagle’s eggs and, even though he knew it was profoundly un-ecological and almost certainly illegal, he carefully took one and stowed it in his pack; then seeing the sun was low in the sky, he realized it was too late in the day to make the top and slowly began to make his way down the cliff to his farm.

When he got home he put the egg in with the few chickens he kept in the yard. The mother hen was the proudest chicken you ever saw, sitting atop this magnificent egg; and the cockerel couldn’t have been prouder.

Sure enough, some weeks later, from the egg emerged a fine, healthy eglet. And as is in the gentle nature of chickens, they didn’t balk at the stranger in their midst and raised the majestic bird as one of their own.

So it was that the eagle grew up with its brother and sister chicks. It learned to do all the things chickens do: it clucked and cackled, scratching in the dirt for grits and worms, flapping its wings furiously,flying just a few feet in the air before crashing down to earth in a pile of dust and feathers.

It believed resolutely and absolutely it was a chicken.

Then, later in its life, the eagle, doing all the all the things chickens do – it clucked and cackled, scratching in the dirt for grits and worms, flapping its wings furiously,flying just a few feet in the air before crashing down to earth in a pile of dust and feathers – suddenly took flight and flew up into the nearest tree, high above his brother and sister chickens. And there he perched…

And now, you tell the rest of the story!

photo by Linda Tanner cc licensed (BY) flickr
photo by Linda Tanner
cc licensed (BY) flickr

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

parable in its complete form found at http://www.spiritual-short-stories.com/spiritual-short-story-602-Chicken+and+the+Eagles.html

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’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.

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.BeguineAgain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.

Paradise Realized-Sacred Space in the Cosmos

flickr photo by Evan Leeson cc licensed (BY NC SA)
flickr photo by Evan Leeson
cc licensed (BY NC SA)

As I pondered “Bloggers in Planet Love” for Valentine’s Day, I thought that there is something to the visions of paradise that seem to permeate religious cultures. I never see paradise populated by buildings towering into the sky! There are always elements of lush green lands, towering trees, and people living as one with nature. That seems to be sacred space.

And sacred space is realized in different cultures almost always in natural spaces. I remember the journeys of Moses up the mountain top, zen mountain monasteries, the sacred Heart Butte of the Blackfeet…and more down to earth, the ordinary everydayness of working in a beautiful garden box. Connecting with the earth and with ancient rhythms.

Just a moment’s digression. Connecting with the earth. I want to change that to cosmos. I am thinking of the ancient Greek word kosmos. Kosmos is typically translated from ancient Greek to the word world or earth. But it really is equivalent to something like, “all the known existence.” Our cosmos is ever expanding. Our understanding of creation is also. Expanding in energy, connectivity, and creativity.

That is Paradise.

I’d like to take a moment to do a short meditation on realizing paradise and loving the cosmos. First, sit down, put your feet flat on the floor or ground. Let your arms rest comfortable. Let your gaze rest gently on the screen. Slow your breathing. Shake your body out, roll your head, roll your shoulders, settle into calmness.

Let us begin.

Breathe in, saying, “Earth”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”
Breathe in, saying, “Cosmos”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”
Breathe in, saying, “Earth”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”

Wiggle your toes. Scooch your feet into the floor a little. Feel the textures. Describe them. It is part of creation. Of paradise. Let your feet feel not only the floor and its coverings, but send your energy downward. Connect to the earth that supports you and all things.

Breathe in, saying, “Hello”
Breathe out, saying “Love”

As your energy goes downward through your feet to the floor, to the earth, ponder what is missing? Can you feel the absence in creation of a necessary energy? Is there something crying out for your attention? Ask the earth, the cosmos, what attention it wants from you.

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your hips, keep breathing, focusing on what you are hearing as an answer, through your feet. What is reverberating through your legs, into the root of your spine? This is the location of security, grounding, and survival. Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your stomach, with your connection to the earth firm through your feet, let your attention travel from the root of your spine upward to the area under your bellybutton.  This is the location of sexuality, creativity, and relationships. How is this part of your body reacting to this connection and question? What are you feeling?

Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your solar plexus or diaphragm, with your feet firmly grounded, feeling the energy reverberating upwards, let your attention travel to the solar plexus. How is this part of your body reacting to this connection and question? Here we find energy, vitality, and personal authority. What are you feeling?

Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your heart, checking in with your feet, your naval, your solar plexus, move onward to your heart–the seat of balance, love and connection. How is your heart reacting to this journey? Is energy gathering here? Or is your heart at peace?

Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your throat, moving onward to your throat, still holding a conscious connection to the earth through your feet and the root of your spine, do you feel anything? Sometimes, our voice feels silenced or choked. Other times, we want to sing out of joy! Can you see both? The beauty of the cosmos calling out in song? And the imbalance of the earth? Is your voice choked and suffering? Or is it singing and witnessing? The throat is the seat of communication and healing. What energy do you feel?

Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Resting your hands lightly on your forehead, check in with the earth at your feet, wiggle your toes just a moment, see that everything is doing fine, move upward to just above your eyes. Here is the seat of your intuition and understanding. You have been listening to the earth. Asking, “What is your desire?” Do you sense an answer? Is the earth noisy today? Or quiet? What energy do you feel?

Keep asking the earth…

Breathe in, saying, “What is”
Breathe out, saying, “Your desire?”

Let your hands almost form over your head as if you are holding a hat in place, staying fully connected through your toes all the way to just above your head, check in with your whole self, with the whole earth, and ask if it is okay to move onward. Focus your thoughts into the space above your head. Here, is transcendental connection to all that is. What is it that you desire? What is it that the cosmos is desiring of you? Do you hear or feel a call?

Breathe in, saying, “Earth”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”
Breathe in, saying, “Cosmos”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”
Breathe in, saying, “Earth”
Breathe out, saying, “Love”

Shake your hands out, letting them drop to your sides. Move your attention from your crown, thanking it for the wisdom it has provided you this down. Move downwards, one by one, thanking your body for listening to you and to the earth.

Breath in, saying, “Dear Eyes”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you for understanding.”

Breath in, saying, “Dear Throat”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you for telling.”

Breath in, saying, “Dear Heart”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you for compassion.”

Breath in, saying, “Dear Diaphragm”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you for desire.”

Breath in, saying, “Dear Stomach”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you for creative answers.”

Breath in, saying, “Dear Spine”
Breath out, saying, “Thank you support.”

Let your attention travel back to your toes, concentrating on a full connection to the earth. Look to the earth and to the cosmos. Bow inwardly, inclining your head and your attention, wishing the earth, “Peace be with you.”

And peace be with you.

Shalom and amen,

~Terri

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’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.

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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.

Sacred Space in the Mirror

My theology and my anthropology descend from two ideas:

  • We are all created as beloved children and as an image of the divine
  • We are called to enter lovingly into sacred mystery, to enter lovingly into our deepest selves, and to enter lovingly into caring for the whole world

That makes the Divine and people ultimately loving and good in my view. The place that I believe that it is most difficult to lovingly accept is when we look into the mirror and see ourselves. What do you see in your mirror? Are you noticing every flaw? Or are you seeing perfection? Those are probably two places that are hard to be. What if we looked in the mirror and found love? acceptance? our ancestors? the future? It is all there!

I am wondering if you could offer a reflection in whatever form speaks to you on what you see in the mirror.

my face is not an
etch-a-sketch
the lines do
not disappear
when you shake me
they are there forever
traced over by time
lovingly etched
by laughter and
tears

my fingers
trace the lines
no knobs to turn
to change directions
the path already
traveled
knowing that each
line
knowing that each
curve
reflects love

no.

I would not trade
these engravings for
an etch-a-sketch
shake-shake-shaking
away each
memory, erasing
each person
that has walked
the line creating a
new face, a
new face, a
new face
and again, a
new face

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Welshdan: http://flickr.com/photos/welshdan/415087493/
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Welshdan: http://flickr.com/photos/welshdan/415087493/

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Inviting Sacred Space Into our Intentions

flickr photo by B Duss  cc licensed ( BY NC )
flickr photo by B Duss
cc licensed ( BY NC )

There is a lot said now about doing things “with intention.” Deepak Chopra says that “intention is the starting point of every spiritual journey.” But sometimes I think we take the concept of intention and confuse it with goals. Setting an intention, “live more compassionately,” becomes conflated with the actions that it takes to reach the goal of compassion. What is a more compassionate life? A life that feeds the hungry? Houses the homeless? Goes into places of deep discomfort? Maybe. It is here that our intention becomes about action or about doing.

But what if it is not about what we do to become a compassionate person, but about inviting compassion to fully invade our being. Dr. Dyer says that this is the process of intention is to allow freedom to enter your consciousness and letting go, becoming free. It separates from what you want and becomes what you are.

“You have to just be. You have to let go. You have to allow. You have to be free and make this your consciousness.” He continues, “Basically, what you would see is a frequency (of energy) that manifests itself through the process of giving, of allowing, of offering and of serving. It asks nothing back.”

Dr. Dyer illustrates the concept of giving without expectations by quoting the great poet Hafiz: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’ Just think of what a love like that can do. It lights up the whole world.”

It seems it is a process of claiming an intention, inviting it in, and then releasing it. Not that we should not be doing, but our aim is not in the doing, it is in the being.

My friend, Deborah Globus at LaPadre recently wrote a short ritual for intention setting. I’d like to share it here so you can, if you like, invite sacred space into your intentions … or … release your intentions to the sacred.

What You’ll Need:

  • Candles (tapers) and candle holders
  • Matches/lighter
  • Carving knife (pocket knives, steak knives and paring knives all work equally well.)
  • Sharpies markers for decoration (optional)

What You’ll Do:

Meditate on what you’d like to bring in

Choose 1-3 words or symbols to represent what you’d like to bring in

Carefully carve into the candle (or write it on with Sharpies or paint pens.)

Light your candle. As the wax melts your intention is released to the Universe.

Resources:

Monthly Newsletter from LaPadre http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs139/1101784704875/archive/1116388396325.html

“The Power of Intention” http://www.drwaynedyer.com/articles/the-power-of-intention

“The Power of Intention” http://archive.chopra.com/namaste/intention

Youtube Time Lapse of a Candle Melting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edtoA4vKMyE

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart
terri

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Finding Sacred Space in Mandala

I love the idea of Mandalas. Mandala means sacred circle in Sanskrit. The idea of sacred circles permeates the spiritual underpinnings of many traditions. The circle of Native American tradition where a sacred circle is danced, not to be broken. The circles of trinity in Christian tradition. The Mandala of Hindi and Buddhist tradition. The circular labyrinth that dates back up to 25,000 years. Walking a circle, dancing a circle, drumming a circle, drawing a circle, even singing a circle … “make the circle wide, make it wider still” … creates a moment of sacred space meeting the co-creative spirit of human and transcendence.

That is beauty.

Lately, I have been thinking about mandalas more than normal because I am co-organizing a mandala workshop called, “Finding Your Spiritual Identity with heART: A Mandala Workshop.” Julia Weaver, a mandala practitioner, will be coming to town and doing two workshops for me- one with the girls in detention (how awesome is that?!) and one for the people of Seattle.  I love that she is being so flexible in offering her gifts and talents.

That is also beauty.

So today, to create our sacred space, I’d like to do a mandala meditation. I am using one of my own images and some meditation ideas that I have found at jeweledlotus.com.

Take a moment and center yourself. Imagine a circle of protection, love, compassion, and mercy surrounding you. Let your gaze rest softly on the computer screen. Rest your feet comfortably on the ground if possible. Simply become as comfortable in your own spot as you can become. As Julia says (and which I will quote in the video!),

“As you gaze at a mandala,
breathe slowly, and relax your eyes.
See with your heart and listen for guidance.
Gently open to your own luminous Divinity.”

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Sacred Stillness

I am working valiantly on ordination papers this week. So I am appropriately resurrecting a post from http://www.BeguineAgain.com as our step into sacred space. And yes, I am ordained, but I am a newbie, so for the first two years we have to submit more papers.

Join me in listening to the beautiful chant by Velma Frye. It is a call to stillness. Rest. Quiet. And a reminder that stillness often is associated with darkness. Imagine the seeds germinating in the darkest earth. Seemingly still, but so much creative energy stirring up unbeknownst to observation! But the stillness is what nurtures it. The darkness. The coldness. Be still.

Be Still
by Velma Frye

Be still.
Be still.
Be still.
Go deep
into
the silence
of the night
and robe yourself
in darkness.

See with the heart
into the dark of the night.
So silent the night.
So dark the night.

Be still.
Be still.
Be still.
Be still.
Be still.
Be still.

What will you do to create stillness in your life?

How can you use darkness to create wholeness?

quiet

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart, CC license BY-NC
(c) 2013, lyrics and video, Velma Frye
(c) 2013, photo, Terri Stewart, CC license BY-NC-ND

..

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.

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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Haiku – A Spiritual Experience

600px-Poecile-atricapilla-001I am sitting here trying to remember what prompted me to write one haiku per day during the first 6 months of 2012.  I was ill, that was the first reason for doing so.  I wished to remain connected to my writing community, keep alive my connection with the friends that I had met online.  I knew that I could not manage an article daily so I needed to write something short.  I decided that haiku was the answer.  Was there any shorter form of poetry?  The learning and the writing that year became for me a spiritual experience.  It taught me to see the world through a new and different lens.  I am so grateful for this experience

I have always been drawn to haiku even when young.  What can be said in 17 syllables, those three short lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables?  It would be easy – just compose three short lines of poetry a day.  Those thoughts will tell you just how little I knew of haiku when I began.  Experience has shown me that many Americans have little knowledge of haiku seeing it simply as three lines of poetry with the 5-7-5-syllable count.  If seen this way the reader and writer of haiku will never be fully satisfied.

The first thing that one should know is that the syllable count fits Japanese words or syllables.  Japanese words or syllables are nothing like English language syllables.  When attempting to write a haiku there are many things to consider before considering the word count.  The second thing that I learned is that it is often written in one line.  Just one.  In Japan that line is often written from top to bottom.  It is vertical.  I do not write vertically.

Poignancy in haiku is important.  The most important thing about haiku for me is very hard to put into language.  For I see haiku as a language all its own.   A haiku ties things together.  Haiku conveys the depths of nature’s beauty and its power.  Haiku shows ones relationship with nature.  One haiku can express in a few words what it might take a psychologist an entire magazine article to profess.  Haiku can evoke within the reader new understanding.  I equate haiku to light.  It can dazzle in brightness.  It can illuminate a path.  It can act as a halo separating yet conjoining reader and writer through the poem.  You are placed within the poem.  Haiku connects the ancient with the modern, the light with the dark, and nature with man/womankind.

The book to which I turn most often for reference is “The Haiku Handbook, How To Share Write and Teach Haiku,” by William J. Higginson.  I would go so far as to say that he has he has “lived” haiku, making his teachings easy to understand and to apply.  When writing haiku my goal is to be living in the moment, to be “living haiku.”  It is a spiritual moment.  I wish to express that moment to you so that you feel what I feel.  I believe Higginson tells us that haiku is about the eloquence of sharing those feelings.  It is easy to say to your friend: “the sky is beautiful.”  But in doing so, you do not really convey what you feel.   Nor are you conveying any degree of real beauty.  According to Higginson, when we share the depths of what we feel through haiku we are building community.   What more important act is there?

The first thing that I do when writing a haiku is search for a kigo.  A kigo is a season word and mandatory in haiku.  Your haiku should be driven by what you feel for your subject and your choice of kigo.   I view the kigo as an anchor.  There are numerous kigo databases online.  New words are always being added.

We have just experienced a foot of snow here in the midwest.  The last time we had so much snow was 1982.  This is an immense weather event here.  Along with subzero temperatures accompanied by wind many of us are pretty much homebound.  I would like to share this large weather experience with you by writing a haiku.  I edit and re-edit before I am happy with them.  Each of these are a part of my process for creating one haiku.

wall of snow – broken branches dangling from trees (this sounds awkward to me)

or

deep white snow – hidden branches (this coveys little feeling)

or

drifting snow – a chickadee’s cap (this possesses the essence of what I am looking for)

Final haiku:

blowing drifting snow – chickadee’s black cap

– Liz Rice-Sosne

© 2013, essay, Liz Rice-Stone, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Black-capped Chickadee via Wikipedia and under CC A-SA 3.0 unported license

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

Creating Sacred Space Wherever You Live

When I first started seminary, I was totally taken aback by two things. First, they start class in prayer. (Shocker! From a secular world to this!) Second, all the professors and administrative personnel seem to have an altar of some sort in their workspace. I never thought of having an altar before that–unless it was books. Creating a place in the home or work where your sacred articles live was a new idea to me. Especially since I came from that strain of protestantism that has all “things” as mundane, therefore personal altars were simply not a thing to be done.

Thank goodness for ecumenical seminary! This exposed me to new thoughts, broader ideas about who and what other people were, and broader ideas, and yet more specific, about who I am. I went about creating an altar at home. It is a little side table with a crystal bowl of rocks with an angel in it. And on the shelf of the table, there are books I love and find inspiration in…a book on hymnody, devotional books, prayer books, and about 10 children’s books ranging from “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak to “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. Over time and in a busy household with youngsters, the altar and items dispersed around the home. Occasionally, I rope them back together. But there is also a gift in seeing them spread all over the place. “Oh, look! A piece of the sacred right there!” or “Oh, that is a beautiful rock, the world is an amazing and holy place!” I suppose, I am not very good at being in one place, so scattering it willy nilly ends up working and becomes an odd kind of altar. I often wish I could build beautiful altars like my friends and colleagues do, but I know! The pieces will be everywhere. Maybe someday. (Said in a wistful voice!)

Today, for our sacred space exploration, I thought we could do an exercise about altars, creating personal altars, and whatnot. However, I had a better idea just typing that paragraph above! Let’s create a virtual altar together! Everybody offer a word, picture, poem, link to something or other, that you find to be inspiring, sacred, holy, or completely whole, and next week, I will bring back a virtual collage. At the same time the offerings are made, please visit the places that other people find sacred space in. I am confident that people will leave a word or two (or more!). You wouldn’t leave me hanging, would you?

Are you ready to do this together? After all, above and beyond having a personal altar, the altar of a community – whether it is in the Christian Church, a Jewish Synagogue, or a Pagan Altar – conveys that which the community finds sacred or holy. Or maybe just important. Maybe a quick examination of the words sacred and holy is in order (from the online etymology dictionary).

Holy:

Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” and connected with Old English hal and Old High German heil “health, happiness, good luck” (source of the German salutation Heil). Holy water was in Old English. 

 Sacred:

late 14c., past participle adjective from obsolete verb sacren “to make holy” (c.1200), from Old French sacrer “consecrate, anoint, dedicate” (12c.) or directly from Latin sacrare “to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate,” from sacer (genitive sacri) “sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed,”

What do you find holy or sacred? What word, image, poem, thought would you offer to a community altar? 

I offer one of my favorite photos of sunset from the top of the mountain, Haleakala on Maui. Why sunset? It is a liminal time when possibilities expand as we hold together both the end of a work day and the gestation of something new. In the Book of Genesis 1:5, it says, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Evening first. Gestation first. Darkness first. Sunset, first.

Haleakala Sunset by Terri Stewart
Haleakala Sunset
by Terri Stewart

Shalom,

Terri Stewart

(c) 2013, post & photo, Terri Stewart

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.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com