Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

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.

Posted in animals/animal welfare/interspecies connections, Corina L. Ravenscraft, Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Nature, Story Telling, Photo Story, Video

The Power of Collective Creativity

As creative individuals, it’s rewarding when we can use our skills to make something that “speaks” to others. Whether it’s the written word, the visual arts, music or performance arts, “The Arts” have always been a way to make powerful statements about politics, religion, war, the environment. It’s a way to make your own opinion known about these and other things that usually embody a very personal, individual set of beliefs or values. It has been said that any “successful” piece of art is one that evokes an emotional response (be it good or bad).

image borrowed from http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

image borrowed from http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

Throughout history, there are scads of examples of “The Arts” changing the world in some way. I’m not just talking about changing the “Art World”, though there are plenty of examples of that, too. But consider things like cave paintings. Once discovered, they completely changed the way that modern mankind viewed our cave-dwelling ancestors! Or how about Shakespeare and his influence of adding around 1700 words to the English language, or his play “Othello” which brought the idea of inter-racial love to the forefront of peoples’ minds?

image borrowed from http://www.durbeckarchive.com/plays.htm

image borrowed from http://www.durbeckarchive.com/plays.htm

The song “Imagine” by John Lennon became something of a “global” anthem for peace, because anyone, anywhere could relate to the desire of human beings for peace instead of war. The photograph of the young, naked Vietnamese girl running away from a napalm attack in the 1970′s shocked enough people to significantly swell the anti-Vietnam movement here in America.

image borrowed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/vietnam/7735854/Vietnam-War-girl-in-the-picture-reunited-with-journalist-who-saved-her-life.html

image borrowed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/vietnam/7735854/Vietnam-War-girl-in-the-picture-reunited-with-journalist-who-saved-her-life.html

I’m sure you can think of numerous examples, but the point is that Art has POWER.

Now take that creative energy and then multiply it, with many artists working for the same cause…and the possibilities are astounding! I’d like to share a video I recently watched from here regarding the POWER of a “Collective Creative Conscience”. It gave me hope and inspiration that we CAN (and DO) change the world in better ways than we ever thought possible! Enjoy! :)



Corina L. Ravenscraft

© 2013, essay and portrait (below), Corina Ravenscraft, All rights reserved

Corina-1CORINA L. RAVENSCRAFT (Dragon’s Dreams) ~ is an old friend of The Bardo Group and a new member of the Core Team. She is a poet and writer, artist and librarian who has been charming us through her blog since 2000, longer than any blogger in our little blogging community.  In the her engaging “about” on her blog HERE, Corina says, “I’m not a materialistic person, because I’ve learned that it’s not the “things” in life which really count, but the people you connect with, whose lives you touch or who touch yours. I don’t take anyone or anything for granted because I know from experience that it can all disappear in the blink of a cosmic eye.  People and animals are so much more important (and interesting!) to me than any kind of material possessions.”

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

Sacred Space at Disneyland

I am at Disneyland right now! On vacation! Sometimes I find myself frustrated at the crowds around me and at certain comments from my family (just as I’m sure they are frustrated with me at times!). But my husband said something very wise as we cued up for the Haunted Mansion – he said, “It is like a labyrinth.”

It was! The difference being the labyrinth leads to a holy space and returns you on the same path. And a cue leads to an event and you exist on a different path. But do we really need a bunch of tools in our tool kit to create sacred space? Do I need my Mary Oliver book, my Bible, my candles, a labyrinth? Or do I need to simply be open? In this instant, in this place, simply being open became enough.

I proceeded down the path towards the Haunted Mansion with my heart stretched and my ears open to the sounds of conversation, of the mechanisms of the ride, of the water nearby, or the staff. And I felt the connectivity with the cosmos. The sacred was there. In the cue at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.

Of course, intellectually, I know this. But experientially, I forget. I get caught up in being right (if it is my family or politics) or caught up in impatience (a 45 minute cue?!). But if I slow down and begin again, I can recall myself to the center and extend my consciousness outward from my body into the world around me. Greeting my loved ones, strangers, trees, all of it – the cosmos.

The cosmos is also within us, we’re made of star stuff. ~Carl Sagan

We just have to remember!

star stuff drifts

through the cosmos

salvation’s quest

It's A Small World (c) 2013, T. Stewart Cell Phone
It’s A Small World
(c) 2013, T. Stewart
Cell Phone

Shalom & Amen!

Terri

P.S. – I’d love for you to drop by www.BeguineAgain.com and see some of the Advent reflections taking place. Today’s reflection is on World AIDS Day from an unsung hero, Tracy Daugherty.

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

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group  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.

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

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

Enter the Story – An Ignatian Style Meditation

St. Ignatius of Loyola
From Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom & Amen,

Terri

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

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

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

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