Posted in Beguine Again, General Interest, TheBeZine

a story of faith, hope and love

IMG_1955I feel almost inclined to start this story with “once upon a time” since it feels that we began our adventure so long ago.  I started The Bardo Group (though it wasn’t titled that way to begin with) in 2011 as a way to encourage a sort of world without borders by having people from different cultures and religions come together to show what’s in their hearts and in doing so to demonstrate that with all our differences we have much in common: our dreams and hopes, our plans for children and grandchildren, our love of family, friends and the spiritual traditions we’ve chosen or into which we were born  . . . not to mention our love of sacred space as it is expressed in the arts and our concerns for peace, social justice and sustainability.

At one point I decided that it would be nice to have a sort of virtual Sunday service and invited Terri Stewart, a Methodist Minister, to be our “Sunday Chaplain.”  In 2008 she founded Beguine Again, an interfaith platform for clerics and spiritual teachers to offer daily solace and inspiration. I felt comfortable inviting Terri in because she didn’t want to convert anyone and seemed to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of traditions other than her own. She even incorporated the wisdom of other traditions in her rituals and writings. Terri supported our mission. She didn’t appear threatened by different opinions or beliefs.

A little over a year ago, I suggested we might throw our two efforts together, Beguine Again and The Bardo Group. I hoped that would ensure the continuation of the The Bardo Group and the wise, beautiful and valued work and ideals of our core team and guests, a group of earnest and talented poets, writers, story-tellers, essayists, artists, photographers and musicians.  Each is a strong advocate for a better – fair, peaceful and sustainable – world. Together they are a powerhouse.

Okay, yes!  I’m a bit biased.  I’ve only met one of our group in person and only talked by phone with Terri,  but I’ve read everyone’s work – their emails, messages, books, blogs and FB posts for years now.  We’ve been through deaths in families, births and birthdays, graduations, illness and recovery, major relocations, wars and gunfire, triumphs and failures. Two of our original contributors have died. I feel that our core team and our guests might be my next-door neighbors instead of residing in  Romania, England, Algeria, the Philippines, Israel, India, Greece, Bulgaria, the United States and other countries I’ve probably forgotten. We’ve featured work by people ranging in age – as near as I can guess – from 19 to nearly 90. They’ve been Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics. The growth of our readership is slow but steady, loyal and just as diverse as our core team and guests.

So what did we do to facilitate this merger: At Beguine Again daily posts continued. That team joined The Bardo Group. We stopped posting daily on The Bardo Group site and started The BeZine, a monthly online publication with a fresh theme for each issue. Terri got a grant to establish a community website from the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church. The website has been over a year in the works. Today, we unveil it.

footer-logo

The site is designed to be a spiritual networking community.  Though it is an extended ministry of the Lake Washington United Methodist Church, this effort remains both interfaith and a labor of love.

The site is supported by donations, membership (paid membership is optional) and a generous grant from Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church, which funded the design and development of the site. The grant from the church ends on December 31, 2015. Donations and membership fees will support the cost of technical assistance, web hosting and so forth. Should there be any excess funds they will go to the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, a Seattle nonprofit (also interfaith) founded by Terri under the aegis of the church. Coalition members provide assistance to incarcerated youth. No income is earned by anyone associated with Beguine Again, The Bardo Group, The BeZine or the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition.  All are labors of love.

The BeZine can still be easily and conviently accessed directly either here at this site or through Beguine Again if you choose to become a member of the community.

Please check out the site. Any questions? Let us know … and do let us know what you think. Please be patient too.  The tech gremlins are still working behind the scenes.

A note on the name: Beguine Again.  The original Beguine community was a Christian lay order in Europe that was active between the 13th and 16th century.  Terri chose the name “Because they worked outside the religious structure and were a safe place for vulnerable people.”

© 2015, article and photograph, Jamie Dedes; Beguine Again logo, copyright Beguine Again

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer, Story Telling, Photo Story

An Open Book

 

“Thou art alive still while thy book doth live, and we have wits to read and praise to give.”  –William Shakespeare–

Paris is a huge city, so crowded, so busy.

 

 Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the milling throngs.

 

 

But the city is an open book.

Its stories are there for all to read…

In a gesture.


Or a smile.

Or a sigh.

Life is happening all around.

So many faces…

…and each one…

…tells a story.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Poems/Poetry, poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

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

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

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

Posted in Essay, Judaism, Michael Watson, Spiritual Practice

Lessons From The Seer of Lublin

Autumn Colors, Nova ScotiaLast night we went to the synagogue for a healing service and to recite selichot in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. During the service one of the Rabbis told a story about the Seer of Lublin, a Hasidic Master who lived from 1745 to 1815.

Briefly the tale is this. A Hasid travels some distance to see The Seer who looks at him and tells him that since he (the visitor) is to die that night, he should go to a hotel in a nearby village to do so. The Seer explains that as it is the Sabbath a dead body in his house would create enormous problems. The man dutifully sets off for the village, only to meet a cart filled with Hasidim on their way into Lublin to spend the Sabbath with The Seer. They ask him why he is going in the WRONG DIRECTION, and he explains that the Rabbi has sent him away to die. The Hasidim respond that if he is to die he should certainly come with them so as not to die alone. He climbs into the cart and they set off for the city. Soon the men ask our tired journeyer, seeing as he obviously has money, to buy spirits to keep them happy and warm on the trip. He complies and soon all are happily singing and swapping tales. As they travel towards the city our Hasid is heaped with praise, blessings, and hopes for a long a prosperous life. When finally the crew arrives back at the Rabbi’s house, the Rabbi looks at our traveler and says, “Oh, you are indeed lucky. The blessings of your fellows have warded off Death.” It is said the man lived well for several more years.

Having told the tale, the Rabbi spoke to the power of blessing. She assured us she was not convinced blessing another has power in itself, and express concern about magical thinking. She was more certain that gathering in community opens the door to healing. She also spoke about what she saw as shamanic elements in the story. I have long considered the best Hasidic Rebbes to be shamans. Indeed, in many texts The Seer is portrayed as a great shaman, as are many of the best Hasidic Rebbes. After all, he can see the future, determine whether something is fated, and utilize whatever wiggle room is available to aid the members of his extended community to a different fate.

Today I’ve been thinking about the story, as well as the service. It seems to me The Seer saw a way to awaken the Wise Healer within the traveler. Perhaps he knew the man would meet fellow Hasids on their way into town, as The Seer’s congregation was far-flung, yet united in the task of reaching the Rabbi’s home before darkness and the beginning of the Sabbath. Maybe he felt secure in the likelihood his congregants would never let a fellow Hasid die alone.  Maybe he, like the founder of Hasidism, The Baal Shen Tov, could, through the good graces of All That Is, intervene directly in the man’s fate. We do not know, and that, too, is part of the mystery and the story.

So this evening we begin the Jewish High Holy Days, the time of remembrance, atonement, and forgiveness, a time we are invited to thoughtfully consider our individual and communal lives. Although I am not Jewish, the rest of our household is, and over the years this time of year has become dear to me. Like the Rabbi I, too, have doubts about magical thinking. Yet, I also believe in the power of compassion, prayer, and joy to awaken the Healer Within persons and communities. Luckily, we have these stories, arising from many traditions, to remind us of our connection to the Creator, one another, and the larger world.

Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

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.

Posted in Contributing Writer, John Anstie, Poems/Poetry

The Secrets of Life … Of Family, Friends, Community and More

“Ha-ha!” I might hear you say, on seeing this headline, “I must read this… the secrets of life” or, more likely, “not another promise of everlasting joy, health and happiness… I don’t believe it!”

Well, maybe you should, but don’t get too excited, at least until I’ve told you what it’s about!

So, if I were to tell you that it takes some lessons from classical Greek mythology, a legendary Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri, who is, some say, the father of the Italian language; a knock on the door of our own Poet and Playwright, Mr William Shakespeare, by reference to that famous soliloquy in ‘Hamlet’, as well as from a little known South African, Eugene N Marais, who did some fascinating and revealing research on the social life of ants; and that it is a poem called… The Secrets of Life then will you have a different reaction? Or will you think it’s a bit overly preachy?

I hope not and trust you will give it a read and tell me what you think about it and, perhaps, give me your alternative views.

What it does come down to for me is the need for some contentment, a reduction in the stress induced in all of us by, on the one hand a fundamental, genetic and unconscious driving force and, on the other, a conscious material greed; one which can help us survive, the other can cause us to fail to find happiness. There is a balance, somewhere.

I’d like to invite you to read the poem that follows, and tell me where you think that balance is, for you.

Thank you for reading.

The Secrets of Life

The riptide pulled and weighed us down,
swimming in our shoals.
It bent us in our will to win,
oh weary, sorry souls.

Oh tiresome, terrifying days
when scholars moved to preach
that all of Christendom was ours,
but always out of reach.

Oh weary, sorry souls, I cried
for all of us, who’re driven,
wherein unconscious mind, so tuned,
lays bare the ego given.

Always, it seems, beyond our reach,
genetics never fail
to teach us how we must survive,
not how to trim the sail.

Ego’s given winds may blow,
but odysseys must end.
For quests beyond our human bounds,
Inferno may portend.

Just when this sea of troubles weighed
too much on mortal coil,
the magic of encircling arms
became the perfect foil.

So I reset the sails for home,
embracing Vesta’s heart;
discovered Marais’ secret strength:
in concert, ne’er apart.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay, poem, and portrait (below),  John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Posted in Essay, Meditation, meditative, Music, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart, Uncategorized

Desire and Intention

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

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

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

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

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

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

These desires will be your intentions.

As always, do this as you are able.

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

The breathing / motion pattern is this:

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

Hands Overhead, Prayer Position
Hands Overhead, Prayer Position

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

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

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

Hands at heart level … Inhale

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

Pushing Intention To the World
Pushing Intention To the World

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

Bring your arms gently down to your sides.

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

Shalom & Amen,

Terri

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

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

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

Posted in Essay, Music, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart, Uncategorized

Ubuntu

I began thinking of Ubuntu today because I love the music of Eric Whitacre! Eric Whitacre is a contemporary choral composer who excels at using social media to bring people together. I first encountered his music with my children’s choir – Seattle Children’s Choir. The mature choir – Camerata – performed his piece Lux Arumque and I just cried. (I often cry during choir music-especially when my children are/were performing!)

As I mentioned, Eric Whitacre excels at using social media. He has used social media and the internet to create four virtual choirs. His first virtual choir was in 2010. It was his piece, Lux Arumque. He had 243 videos from 12 countries.

His second piece was Sleep. It had over 2,000 videos from 58 countries and was published in 2011. 2012 brought Water Night with 3,746 videos from 73 countries. He is currently assembling Virtual Choir IV – Fly to Paradise – with 8,400 submitted videos from 101 countries.

What does this have to do with Ubuntu?

I first heard of Ubuntu at seminary. I learned it from my friend, Sr. Jane Frances of Uganda. It is encapsulated in the phrase, “I am because we are.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu speaks of Ubuntu in his 1999 book, No Future Without Forgiveness-

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

He further expands on Ubuntu-

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

We are connected; Eric Whitacre does it well and it spreads out for the whole of humanity.

…night brings its wetness to beaches in your soul (from Water Night)

Let your soul’s beach be made wet again with this offering from Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir III- Water Night. Connect to Mr. Whitacre, the music, the thousands of artists from around the world, and ultimately, to something that is bigger than we are. This one piece of music is because we are. Ubuntu.

P.S. Half of the recording length is not the music – it is the list of the names of all of the participants.

You can find Eric Whitacre on Facebook. He is wickedly funny!

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

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

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