Connecting to Our Story

New Life, New Story
New Life, New Story

Often times, we look back at our lives and we can see the story. But is that story really the heart of the matter? How do we connect to the heart of our story in the present moment? Taking meaning from what is now to illuminate what was then.

At the core of every moment lies the heart of the cosmos, and my heart, and yours.

~Margaret D. McGee, Haiku–the Sacred Art

Today, I’d like to try a technique that Margaret McGee teaches in her book referenced above. She uses it to teach haiku. If you feel comfortable with that, I would definitely encourage you! If you feel there is another creative form calling forth from you, then use that–music, dance, poetry.

You will need up to 20 minutes for this exercise. Review all the steps before you start, unless you’re like me, in which case you just jump in!

Make a chart something like this (you probably will need extra room under sight!):

table

Now, if it is possible, find a nice place outside to sit comfortably and to take in your surroundings.

Relax, breathe deeply, look around.

  • Now–What do you smell? It’s spring–are there flowers blooming? Can you smell them? Not all smells are serene! It could be something else altogether!
  • Then–Close your eyes. Let go and stroll through your memories. Is there a particular scent from your past (last week? childhood?) that is arising for you?
  • Now–Write down the first thing you see! And keep on filling it in. Our eyes can take in so many things! We can see, arguably, over 100,000 different colors! What words can you create that describes the individuality in what you see?
  • Then–Close your eyes. Let go and stroll through your memories. Is there a particular color or scene from your past that is arising for you?

Continue on in this pattern for each category.

Now, get a fresh sheet of paper or use the back of your grid. Choose a few images from your lists that are resonating with you and with each other. These images may all be from the present moment or they may be from past moments. In particular, if you want to use the present to cast meaning on your past story, search for threads that connect across time.

Go and do! Create your artwork (or soulwork) in haiku, other poetry forms, photography, collage, painting, mandala, essay, etc. Whatever way calls to you. Take time now to make meaning and to add to the depth and meaning of your own story.

table2

For me, what is resonating is the bitterness of coffee, addiction, wind that is too strong. Yikes–what can I do with that?

stormy winds of spring

whistle through my breaking heart–

promises unkept

Aaah, well, this exercise today seems to have brought up some memories. What is clear to me is that our stories are never finished. We can continue to add meaning and to find new meaning and to have alternate meanings! A surplus of meaning.

The full story behind this new story has been started before if you would like to read it.

Shalom,

Chaplain Terri

© 2013, essay, haiku, and photograph, Terri Stewart, all rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI 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 recent 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 “Cloaked Monk.” 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.

What are you witness to?

tracy-arm-fjord-copy

What are you witness to? What story have you seen? Where has grace moved in your life?

I’ve just returned from vacation. There were so many stories told if I just slowed down and listened or watched. There was the mother holding a young child’s hands as he ran along the pool’s edge; the young man from Indonesia who works day after day with no days off; the staff who rush to the port side of the boat so they can see where we are going or have been, their only contact with a new world from a distance or from behind a camera.

Grace moved in my heart at every encounter with the people and with the striking depth of beauty that we encountered in the natural beauty of Alaska and the surrounding area. Grace moved in my heart when I was able to experience living through the eyes of compassion in this rarefied environment. Love, beauty, and grace coalescing in my rib cage.

I wrote a series of haiku witnessing to the stark beauty in the Tracy Arm Fjord that I offer here along with a photo from that day.  These haiku were primarily inspired by the waters while we were entering into the Tracy Arm Fjord, which were quite different from the waters once we were sitting still.  The arrival waters were deeper, grayer, more choppy and more mysterious.

The photo is from a moment of stillness in waters littered with small icebergs. Click on the photo to see an expanded view. To browse through the unedited photos, you can go to my flickr site.

glacier fed wind

whips across cresting waters

reflecting sun’s glory

frenzied wind

stirring waters to white peaks

be still my soul

shrouded grey waters

revealing iceberg tips

depths hidden

– Terri Stewart

© 2013, essay, haiku, and photograph, Terri Stewart, all rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI 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 recent 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 “Cloaked Monk.” 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.

Enter the Story

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Image from WikiMedia Commons
St. Ignatius of Loyola, Image from WikiMedia Commons

One of the spiritual exercises that St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended was entering the story of scripture using your imagination. Using all your senses, imagine yourself in the story. Today, I am offering this exercise to you.

Below is a story that appeals to me from the Gospel of John. You do not have to be Christian to appreciate the point of this story, I believe. But if you would rather gather another story and do this exercise, I would encourage you to do that!

Sit relaxed, place your feet flat on the ground and read the story. Then close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your  imagination. What is going on with the men and women in the scene? What do the characters look like? How do the characters react to each other? What are the people saying to one another? What emotions fill their words? As you enter into the scene, sometimes there is the desire to be there. You could place yourself in the scene as one of the characters in the story or as someone brand new.

Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

What do you smell? See? Can you feel anything? Can you imagine writing in the dirt? What would you write? Are there smells? Can you hear anything? Is your intuitive sense telling you anything? Where are you in the story? Who are you in the story? What is your story?

Shalom and Amen.

Chaplain Terri

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

Terri StewartTERRI 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 recent 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 “Cloaked Monk.” 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.

Candle Gazing and a Contemplative Tale

Today’s practice is two tales set to a video recording of three candles. I will confess that this was done in my living room and, well, the candles are not as flickery on the video as they were in my living room. I would suggest getting a candle and looking at it instead of the video screen! Or simply closing your eyes and listening.

Candle gazing is a contemplative meditation technique. In this manner, instead of closing your eyes, you let your eyes rest on the flame of a candle. Let your gaze rest softly, neither focusing too hard or letting the candle leave your gaze. Stay with the candle as it dances and let your mind be free.

This video is about 4 1/2 minutes long. There are a couple of brief moments of silence. Stay with the silence and get through to the other side.

The stories are from one of my favorite books, “Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About” by Margaret Read MacDonald. This book found us when my kids were in elementary school. (My youngest is graduating this year! Yikes!!)

Sit back. Relax. Get comfortable. Become grounded. Now listen with your heart.

 

Namaste, salām, shalom.

 

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

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday evening chaplain. You can expect a special post from her each week. 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 recent 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 “Cloaked Monk.” 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.

Why We Shout in Anger

377px-VishnuvishvarupaA Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked.

‘Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?’

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, ‘Because we lose our calm, we shout.’

‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner, ‘asked the saint.

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples. Finally the saint explained, .

‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…’

The saint continued, ‘When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

He looked at his disciples and said.

‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’
-Author Unknown.

Thank you to Kris Lee for bringing this story to my attention.
Photo Illustration ~ Krishna (Hindu avatar)via Wikipedia and in the public domain.

– Terri Stewart

mailTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s Chaplain, Sr. Consulting 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 recent 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.
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Her online presence is Cloaked Monk.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.