Sacred Space in Joy

 

 

When I look at this photo of my oldest son (who is now 21–yikes!), I cannot help but feel pure joy! His joy is so strong that it overlaps out of the photo frame, across time, and into my heart. This tells a story of being present, being fearless, and being immersed.

Being present to the experience allows us to put away all the “what ifs” and “I shoulds.” Leaving the past behind (what if I had…) and leaving the present in the future (I should do…). Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay present to what is happening right now. What is happening right now? I hear the rushing wind through the open window of cars rushing along a distant road, the scrape-scrape-scrape of yardwork, indecipherable young voices traveling along buoyant air waves…

Being fearless lets us experience new things, but it also gives us the courage to express ourselves. What you can’t tell about this photo is that this is the waters of the Puget Sound. And the average water temp is 50-55 degrees. In other words, it is cold-a** water!  But he is present to the experience and it enables him to let his emotions travel across his entire body! To me, the photo screams joy! Exhilaration! And he doesn’t care if everyone knows it. What feelings need to be expressed that require courage? I have been having real bouts of depression lately. I think it is important that people outside my inner circle know that.

Being immersed in the experience removes the possibility of detachment. Maybe it is just me, but it seems that there is a way to be present, feel your own feelings, but to be detached from All That Is. Detached from creation. Detached from one another. It is almost a selfish experience of religious ecstasy. Now, bear with me for a moment. I have had religious ecstatic experiences. In a certain theological mindset, the experience is all about me & the divine experience.  It leads nowhere. To no outside experience of love and service. Then, when the experience abates, there is a seeking out of the next divine experience. Almost like an addiction. Over and over, seeking ecstasy. But there are three parties in the cosmos. Me, All That Is, and You. You is a lot of things.

  • People
  • You
  • Creation

And all that is in it and outside of it. If we are attached to one another, we will step in to stop injustice. We will work, together, towards a better future, realizing joy in the here in now. In Christian tradition, it is called the Kingdom of God. It is important to me to reach out to the lost, the least, and the lonely. Especially those in the LGBTQ community that have been harmed by religious tradition. It is important to me to also reach out to the least among us that have been affected by incarceration, especially young people whose histories are not yet fully written.

What would our lives be like if we stayed present, fearless, and immersed? Better yet, what would the world be like?

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!

terrisignoffblog

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Sacred Space in Community

I am currently away at a retreat. While here, I have been reminded of the importance of community. This community is working together towards a goal of having an imagination emporium. A physical space where the community gathers to imagine ways to transform the world to a more just society.

I thought, “We have that!

The Bardo Group imagines peace and justice every  day. And we walk with each other even with our diverse geographies.

That is Sacred Space.

by Lynda flickr.com/just1snap (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
by Lynda flickr.com/just1snap
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Today, I would like to invite us all to build something together.  Words that imagine justice for the lost, the least and the lonely. I am sure there is an official name for what I am proposing, but I am going to call it “communal haiku.” I will start us out with a haiku and I invite each reader to respond in their own way. Each of us building on the gift of one another. Sacred Space in community, building a gift together that imagines a transformed world.

This is inspired by a reading from on Hebrew scripture, Isaiah 25:6-10. Reaching back and including another community!

Celebrated wines poured
into cut-crystal goblets.
Prisoner’s freedom.

What comes next?

Shalom,
Terri Stewart

terrisignoffblog

Sacred Space in Mental Illness

A while ago, I was a Spiritual Director at a women’s prison. While I was there, one of my clients had a mental illness. Entering into Spiritual Direction was interesting because it challenged me to think about G*d in ways I had never thought of. Here, I had a client who was clearly seeking “something more” but was afraid of “voices” in her head. Huh. In traditional language about the divine, I often speak of a “call” or a “nudge” or “voice” that comes from elsewhere. Now that elsewhere can be internally or externally, but it is still quite separate from the logical thought processes of my mind. The question became, what do I do if I am afraid of trusting any voice other than the logical thought process? How do I imagine the divine?

The product of my imaginings were twofold. My imaginings produced a poem called “ghost town” that is an exploration of what it means to be a seeker with a mental illness. This led to the realization that the only trustworthy things were concrete, visible, and available. And this is okay. It too, is sacred space.

And so I offer to you, “ghost town.”

ghost town

From a Ghost Town in AZ
An Actual Ghost Town in AZ

small, still voice of wind,
tossing my tumbleweed-thoughts
that roll through a ghost town.

here, my safety has been
abandoned to the rats and mice
that hide from revelation,
distrusting that light
so much that they will not stay
and visit. the locks and guns
have been jammed by mud-caked
memories of injustice,
in the sheriff’s office.

the hollow-hallow notes of the
player-piano silent
except for the collapsing
frame that drops pieces of itself
crashing onto the discordant keys,
creating a nightmare sound of
happiness twisted into grief,
twisted into a mockery of joy,
in the saloon.

the telegraph does not speak
into the future, the wires
have frayed and disconnected
from the source of consolation,
reality has dissolved letters of love
or news of the war and the
beloved sears & roebuck catalog,
in the post-office.

the ghost town disgusts me.
especially when the wind is
blowing and changing all that
i know into something unknown
ripping the roof apart and causing
the cacophony of noises to come
in from all directions telling
me, what?  untrustworthy voice!

so small and still or
so big and booming

telling me to tear the walls apart
bare-handed until my fingers
become bloody stubs and
yet you insist that i see you,
listen to you, the wind destroying
the small community of barn owls
and bats that i have built in my
ghost town.  i do not want to hear
you.  the owls and bats are my
saving grace.

Terri Stewart, Dec. 2010

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Sacred Space in our Bodies

A few weeks ago, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world.

The upshot is that Western Christianity, whether we are Christian or not, has exerted a large influence on the social constructs of the world. This influence has taught that our bodies are to be reviled! Part of the process of reclaiming our bodies as sacred space has been to examine the historical underpinnings and how it is lived out in modern advertising and culture today. From the dualism of Plato to the rejection of sexuality by Augustine and the shaming of our bodies, we have and are experiencing a crisis of embodiment.

When we do not experience our own embodiment, we can divorce ourselves from hurting others. This is most tragically being lived out on the world stage in the crisis between Israel and Palestine. One most tragic headline is the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. These teens, kidnapped and killed, were mere tools on the world-stage. Because their lives, their bodies, did not matter. The work of Liberation Theologians and Philosophers is needed now more than ever to release us from thinking our own bodies and the bodies of others are less than worthwhile. It is tragic.

What is the solution? Unfortunately, the only way to experience our own bodies as sacred is to do interior work that can be difficult. Sociologist Brené Brown describes this problem as one of shame. We live in shame of ourselves and it then extends to others and leads to lives of scarcity rather than abundance. The interior work that we have to do to overcome shame is in three parts: (1) mindfulness, (2) joy, and (3) gratitude. It’s that easy. (Just joking!)

I would call it “being present.” You must remain present to the now in order to experience mindfulness, joy, and full gratitude. When we pop out of being present and drop into either looking too far into the past or too far into the future, we will lose it. Can you remember that moment of pure joy, maybe looking at something beautiful – a sunset, a child, a loved one, a flower – and then you start thinking of the “what ifs?” By losing being present, joy is lost, gratitude is lost, mindfulness is lost. We become lost and then the other becomes lost. By remaining present, our interior lives are expanded outwards to overflowing! Our bodies become sacred and other bodies become sacred. All of life, in every part of the cosmos, becomes sacred.

That is the Kingdom of Love made manifest! And remember, you are beautiful!

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Sacred Space in All That Is

I am not quite done with the reading I wanted to do to create the final posting in the series of Sacred Space in the body, so I am going to share this recent post I wrote over at BeguineAgain.com.

…I was, I AM, I will always be…

Really, that’s the definition of the Holy Name that G*d passes on to Moses. This infinitive form of the verb “to be,” makes me think of even more! Reaching my fingers back through time and forward to the future.

Couple that with the declaration in the book of Genesis,

Let us make humans in our own image! Male AND female G*d created them

Lawrence T. Richardson expanded a bit on this. Instead of our traditional understanding that would be more of male OR female, G*d created them, it is male AND female. He is a transgender, queer-identified pastor, someone who has been created both male and female and claims both. Pastor Richardson talks of transgender people being the epitome of G*d since they are both male AND female rather than either/or. Now, I don’t really agree that there is a hierarchy of being most made in the image of G*d, but I do agree that the great I AM is embodied in all people.

One of the things I love about physics is the discussion of matter in regular plain-old Newtonian physics. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Therefore, the dust that we experience has always been, is, and will always be. The things we breathe and touch that make us sneeze fits, have always been, are, and will always be. We are all connected through earthly and cosmic stardust (to dip into Carl Sagan’s language a bit). We, through our connection to the divine and through our connection to physical matter have always been, are, and will always be.

How can I not feel holiness, sacredness, the divine if we are not all connected?

stardust shimmers

ten thousand light years ago

birthing new life

It is at moments when I reflect on all that was, is, and shall be, that I feel fully connected and grounded in the Sacred Space in All That Is.

from the Hubble Telescope Infrared Horsehead Nebulae
from the Hubble Telescope
Infrared Horsehead Nebulae

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

Originally published at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

Photograph from the Hubble Telescope, Creative Commons License

terri

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

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

Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

Four weeks ago (plus one week off), I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Part III here

Today, the images, poems, and points address the issue of men and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space. I am additionally adding an update of men and shame from Brené Brown.

  • Each subset of males see’s their body as either limiting or freeing. Either an asset or a liability.
  • Disappointment or embarrassment with body image is not talked about.
  • Men objectify others (esp. women) in the very ways they hope that they themselves are not objectified.
  • Men disguise their bodies (weights, tattoos, fashion)

Two examples come to us from Saul Williams and Brett Dennen. Mr. Williams talks about the inescapability of the realities that are attached to black, male bodies (explicit) while Mr. Dennen addresses the shame and guilt attached to the privilege of being Western-European-American and male.

WARNING: EXPLICIT: Saul WIlliams

Brett Dennen

In both cases, the artist laments the body as that which separates him from larger community and peace. The body is either used to marginalize or is a symbol of appropriation and bodily harm. The body is mournful, life-stealing, and restrictive.

Sociologist and author Brené Brown, PhD, offers this list of shame that men experience: (page 91-92, “Daring Greatly,” an abbreviated version of the list is below)

  • Shame is failure.
  • Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
  • Shame is a sense of being defective.
  • Shame happens when people think you’re soft.
  • Revealing any weakness is shaming.
  • Showing fear is shameful.
  • Shame is being seen as “the guy you can shove up against the lockers.”
  • [Men’s]worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed–either one of these is extremely shaming.

But the body is sacred!
Kelly Brown Douglass: Divine incarnation affirms the holiness of all bodies.
Sally McFague: Spirit and Matter are intrinsically related.
Mayra Rivera: God’s transcendence in our embodiment “summons” us to a new ethic.
Galatians 5:2 “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of our bodies presented here and in the other presentations, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

Next week, I will look at this for one more week focusing on the good news that comes to us from the sources of spirituality and sociology. More Brené Brown! This next piece hasn’t been written, but I have ideas! Can you help me out by offering my the body-positive messages and quotes you receive from your spiritual paths and traditions?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

P.S. From Brené Brown on women and shame (I wish I had read this book before I started this series rather than in the middle of it!) (From pages 85-86,”Daring Greatly,” abbreviated version)

  • Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
  • Being judged by our mothers.
  • Being exposed–the flawed parts that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.
  • No matter what you achieve, what you’ve come from and survived will always keep you from feeling like you’re good enough.
  • Even though everyone knows there is no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.
  • Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.
  • No seat at the cool table. The pretty girls are laughing.

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in our Elder Bodies

Three weeks ago, I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Today, the below video points to the issue of the elderly and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space.

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred
.

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of aging presented here, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in Rest

I am interrupting my series on Sacred Space in the Body. I wish I could say that it was for a lofty reason, but the truth of the matter is that I wrote a sermon that took all the words out of my body and left me with nothing! And this is a beautiful post about resting and sabbath that I co-created with my FB friend and photographer, Tom Ganner. Originally published at BeguineAgain.com. I’ll be back on track with Sacred Space in the Elder Body next week.

Today’s theme of sacred space in rest is offered by photographer Tom Ganner. Tom is a photographer from Haines, Alaska. I met him last year when I went on a cruise. He toured us around Haines to all the “photography” spots. He was so gracious! I encourage you to look at his photography (http://www.timenspace.net/) and if you are in the area, take his tour!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
The high point of my summer has been two weeks with my grandson. I regret I have to take him down to Juneau today to return him home to Colorado. He says he wants to come back next year.  Photo created up Haines Pass near Three Guardsmen. — with Oliver in Haines, AK.
The high point of my summer has been two weeks with my grandson. I regret I have to take him down to Juneau today to return him home to Colorado. He says he wants to come back next year. Photo created up Haines Pass near Three Guardsmen. — with Oliver in Haines, AK.
“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.” 
― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
Another ho-hum day in paradise with grandson Oliver at David's Cove. — in Haines, AK.
Another ho-hum day in paradise with grandson Oliver at David’s Cove. — in Haines, AK.
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” 
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
(c) Photos, Tom Ganner, All Rights Reserved
(c) Essay, Terri Stewart, Creative Commons (BY-NC)
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Sacred Space in our Bodies

I am going to resurrect and modify a presentation I did a few years ago with Terra Morgan, Bjorn Peterson, and Denise Ritthaler. In this presentation, we develop the case for a theology of Liberation of the Body. Although we use references, occasionally, from Christianity, the topics transcend that particularity. And unfortunately, this dialogue has framed much of western culture’s understanding of our bodies.

This will be a four part series looking at:

  1. The case for a Liberation of the Body & Liberation of our sexual being
  2. Liberation of women and particularly body image
  3. Liberation of elder bodies
  4. Liberation of men

(Note: This already is too gendered and separated! But it is the beginning of our thoughts on the topic).

And we just barely touch the iceberg!

Why do I consider this sacred space? I consider that we are in relationship with three things:

  1. us and bodies
  2. us and the world
  3. us and the divine

If we are not at peace with our bodies, our own selves, our angst and anger will spill into our treatment of the world and into our understanding of the divine. If we believe the Divine is within, and within us we hurt ourselves, then the Divine is also hurt. If we believe the Divine is outside of us, and has caused this, the Divine becomes capable of vengeance and capricious pain. Either way, it seems a difficult place to hold. Throw in the world and how we use it, and we are done for. So in an effort to move into peacefulness within ourselves and then in relationship with the world, let us consider our bodies as sacred space worth liberating.

Additionally, since nobody has really written “Let’s liberate our bodies!” what you will experience may be music, images, factual stuff, poetry…it’s all fair game!

Do you want the geeky stuff? Here it is!

The Theological Problem: Liberation of the Body

by Terri Stewart, Denise Ritthaler, Terra Morgan, and Bjorn Peterson

We are talking about liberating the body in a variety of forms. It is a theological problem that has developed from Platonism which brings us the realm of forms and particulars. In forms we have transcendence, the soul, and reason. This is the optimal way of being in the world. In the particulars, we have our senses, opinions, and our body. This is not the preferred way of being in the world. Separating ourselves into dualistic (tri-istic?) bits ignores that we are one integrated body and only one way to experience our senses.

Platonism impacts Christianity through an interpretation of Jesus’ ascetic personal practices. Then Paul, who was Greek and had a greater influence from Platonic sources, brought a more extreme sexual ethic into his writings.

Then, through the source of tradition, we then have Augustine who tells us that the body is sinful and that the soul and reason are to be preferred. This places God as “out there.” Away from the body because clearly, God is not sinful, therefore, even though the Divine is incarnational, the Divine has nothing to do with the body.

Maya Rivera, theologian, says, “This privileges “sameness over difference, of the One over the multiplicity, of the universal over the particular…in such systems there is no place for real otherness. Totalities reduce persons to categories.” (Rivera, 57)

However, Neale Donald Walsh reminds us of the inseparability.

“Your mind holds the past,
your body holds the present,
your soul holds the future.
Put another way,
the mind analyzes and remembers, Slide5
the body experiences and feels,
the soul observes and knows.”

So who are we really?

We are the body of the Divine participating in one diverse reality that would cast us all as other.

And who is the Divine?

Slide6God is love in the recognition that we and all of creation exist together and yet the Divine is so much more. The source, the center, the spring of existence. The Divine is other, existence is other, and we are other to ourselves. And yet, we are all each an incarnational part of Love’s cosmic creation.

This approach to liberation of the body is through a demonstration of what it means for humans as sexual beings, humans as women and their body image, humans as the elder body, and humans as men. (Note: I would also consider that this is entirely too gendered, but it is a starting point.)

Liberation of the Sexual Body

We are all sexual beings. Whether or not we have sex, we are sexual beings. In Western culture (and many others around the world), our sexuality is frowned upon. The appreciation for eros is limited. In ancient Greek, we have three words for love – agapos, philos, and eros. Each one describing a different aspect of love. Eros is believed to be that type of love that is the seat of creativity. In sexuality, we see this as the drive to have children – create! Some scholars believe that eros is the seat of all our creative desires. But our religious authorities rarely express this. This is because of a theological battle endured 1600+ years ago between Augustine and Pelagius.

Slide9If we had only chosen Pelagius! But the foundation is there to have a theology based in free-will and the idea that we are indeed born in a state of being good rather than in a state of being a worm. And it was good! Very, very good!

created by Terri Stewart
graphic created by Terri Stewart

The Unity Church developed a philosophy of “The 12 Powers.” Spiritual abilities that we are perfectly able to express and that are present in every person. These powers hold that the body is good, very very good! This connects very nicely to the Chakras as described in so many ways and visualized to the right.

But through it all, from the beginning to now, the body, mind, and spirit has been connected to our bodies. Pelagius knew that and we can see it. And our creative, generative bodies can also experience being liberated through the concept of liberating our own bodies to give and receive love. We are created, we create. That is the Divine circle of our eros bodies.

One way to experience a liberated body grounded in eros-creativity is through music and movement. I encourage you to listen to the below, simple music and to move your body however you will–without shame or reservation. Reach an arm to the sky! Roll your head from side-to-side! Sway! Thou shalt do what thou shalt do! And this is the end of part 1, laying the groundwork for a Liberation of the Body and using cultural items to show that we are already liberated! Let’s claim our sexual, eros selves as liberated beings.

How would you write your eros liberation?

Pour Yourself In Me ~Rickie Byers Beckwith

A Unity Church Artist

Shalom and Amen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book FHR.com, “Better Access For Disabled Passengers at Prestwick Airport”, posted by Graham Greenaway October 9, 2008, http://www.fhr_net.co.uk/travel- news/1467/better_access_for- disabled_passengers_at_prestwick_airport

Department of Management & Budget, Office of Retirement Services, State Employees Defined Benefit Plan, http://www.michigan.gov/orstatedb/0,1607,7-208-30608_33437-,00.html

Lazzaretto, John, Independent Health Insurance Broker, “Medicare Supplemental Insurance Needs”, http://medicarejohn.com/medicare%20basics.html

Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, Inc, 2009, “Money Management Services”,http://www.phpmss.org/aarp_money_management_services.html.

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

MySA, San Antonio Home Page advertisement, http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sanantonio/obituary-funeralhome.aspx?fh=neptune- society-&fhid=10111.

Evergreen Hospice Care, Copyright © 2008-2009 Evergreen Hospice Care, Inc. All rights, http://www.evergreenhospicecare.com/

Enya, A Day Without Rain, “Only Time” Produced by Enya and Nicky Ryan, 2000 EMI Songs Ltd./EMI Blackwood Music Inc., Warner Music UK Ltd

Hub Pages, by Peaceful Warrior, “Slow Down the Aging Process 69” http://www.hubpages.com/hub/Slow-Down-the-Aging-Process.html

Terrafolia Flowers, Advertisement, “Rutgers Study Links Flowers to Senior Citizens Well Being” http://www.terrafolia.ca/flowers-seniors.html#ixzz15INxnrfi

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

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

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

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

Rivera, Mayra. The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2007.

Williams, Saul. Sha-Clack-Clack. Slam: The Soundtrack. Sony, 1998.

Morgan, Fiona, Daughters of the Moon Tarot, Daughters of the Moon, Willits, CA, 1984.

Comstock, Gary David, A Whosoever Church, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky., 2001.

Comstock, Gary David, Gay Theology Without Apology, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2009.

Fillmore, Charles and Cora, The Twelve Powers, Unity House, Unity Village, MO, 1999.

 

 

 

Sacred Space in the Text

Sacred space in the text? There are one zillion texts that people can find sacred space in, so what do I mean? It’s not that text. The text I mean is your phone. Texting. Find sacred space in your phone via texting.

How?

By stopping right now! Noticing where you are and what you are doing, and texting it to an accountability partner.

Stop! State what process you are beginning.

Drop! Notice what are you feeling? Drop down into your heart. Now, what is your intention?

Text! Send it to an accountability partner.

That creates a moment of sacred space, each and every day. If you program it into your calendar to “Stop, Notice, and Text”, you will be able to become present to the situation at hand, state your feelings honestly, and move on into the next movement with grace and transparency. This is sacred.

Do you have someone you can be a Stop-Notice-Text accountability partner with? Or, can you text yourself?

Tell me what you think! I look forward to hearing from you.

Terri Stewart Conversation with Mentor
Terri Stewart
Conversation with Mentor

 

Shalom & Amen!

terrisignoffblog

 

Sacred Space in the Window

One of the most difficult things that humans do is make meaning from their current situation. In seminary, we were asked to do an assignment called, “This I Believe.” I still treasure the product of that assignment and will share it below. A few questions I pondered and hoped to be thoughtful about included:

  • What is belief?
  • How is belief lived out?
  • Does belief evolve over time?
  • If belief evolves over time, what does that mean?
  • Could belief be the only particular window into the world?
  • Or is belief a particular window into the world?

windows

as i look behind
i see a path of aged stone
worn away at the edges
cementing to its neighbor
existing since the
apple flew from the tree

as i look ahead
i see tangles and brambles
and flowers and warmth
and my foot reaches out
as the stone peeks
through the grasses
for a moment
while i hesitantly
test the ground
of all being

as i place my foot
down on the rock
the path is solid and
the tangles and brambles
dissolve into nothing
as the daisies lean towards
the sun gesturing
for me to proceed

as i look up
i see a mansion
welcoming me with
the scent of lavender
and love
calling out like
mama greeting me
after a long summer
away at camp

as i reach the door
i turn the handle
shaking and trembling
with fear and awe
standing at the portal
that leads to
a new place of belonging

as i step forward
realizing this is home
my ragged teddy bear
is waiting for me
on the worn chair
joy glinting off his
button eye

Papa! Mama!
i am home!

“In the garden, child.”

as i look out
i suddenly notice
the windows
each stained to create
a beautiful invitation
of loving encouragement
and lively warmth
leading to the garden

as i run from window
to window i am stunned
by the rainbow of promise
that dances before
my eyes
until i see him
and i am caught
by his image
as love overwhelms me
and my heart dances
and the garden glistens
through the
tears in my eyes

as i peek into the garden
i see Papa waiting for me
and my hand reaches out
to touch the beauty of
him and passes
through the glass
holding me in surprise
while i walk through the
window into the light
enraptured with him

i run to Papa
and leap into His arms
knocking Him back and
He receives me with
a chuckle and twirls
me headily through the
clouds with laughter
born of love and
grace.

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!

Poem, Terri Stewart, May, 2009
Photo, Terri Stewart, 2013
Post, Terri Stewart, updated from 2013 at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

terrisignoffblog

Sacred Space and Photography: Light v. 2

Sacred Space and Photography: Light v. 2

This month is interNational Photography month! Here, at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month-long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.

Last week, I wrote about the symbolism in our religious traditions of light and used photography and light to show how we can point to something that transcends our understanding. Plato would say that the photo of sunset points towards the form of sunset—that perfected form of sunset-ness.

Plato’s Theory of Forms “described the common nature of all things in the world, not just of a table, for instance but of all the tables that ever were and ever will be. This Platonic form of the ideal table is eternal and changeless. It has an essential tableness, as it were, that exists whether the table is where you ate lunch in the school cafeteria or the one at a Paris café where you fell in love. In Plato’s famous allegory of the cave in “The Republic,” the things that we see on a daily basis, like the table in front of you, are merely shadows of the ideal form.” (https://www.archetypes.com/article/plato)

Any object can point towards the perfected idea of that object. And what we see in front of us is essentially a shadow of its ideal self (as no perfected form can be reached—saving this philosophical and theological discussion for another time!).

In photography, shadows are only achievable when there is light. Without light, no shadows. And sometimes, shadows can lead to beautiful pictures. When we handle shadows correctly.

Pointing Towards the Form of Tree by Terri Stewart
Pointing Towards the Form of Tree-ness
by Terri Stewart

And isn’t that true of life? We need to handle our own shadows correctly in order to have a more perfected life? Our shadows, like Plato’s cave, leave us living lives that are not quite ideal. Often, our shadow grows out of shame. Shame comes from unresolved trauma—something that we have not dealt with entirely. For me, shame is often connected to my body image. I remember, 30 years ago, sitting at the dinner table all of 5’3” and 120 pounds and being told, “No wonder I was fat.” And then crying into my plate. Logically, I know that 5’3” and 120 pounds was just fine. But that shame experienced at that moment is seared into my brain and I can recall the rush of tears that made me ashamed of my body. That feeds into self-sabotage of my embodied self in some ways and can lessen my general enjoyment of life unless I deal with it and learn to look at my shadow and bring it into the light!

I can use photography to examine both myself and my shadow. Selfies aren’t all selfish. You can use them to take photos of your shadow self, bringing yourself more and more into the light and into a fuller realization of our perfected selves.

Pointing Towards the Form of Terri-ness by Terri Stewart
Pointing Towards the Form of Terri-ness
by Terri Stewart

Someone said that photography is painting with light. It is also learning how to cope with shadows and darkness.  Do you have a shadow—in your photos? Can you peek into it and see how it points towards the fullness of life?

Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
Photography, CC License (CC BY-NC)

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

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

 

Sacred Space and Photography: Light

This month is interNational Photography month! Here at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month-long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.

In my journey with photography, I have become more aware of light. The presence of light, the absence of light, how it causes reflection, my friend, Paul Jeffrey, told us once that he always turns the flash off, taking advantage of natural light. (I’m sure the rule is “almost always.”) I find that in photographing nature, that I try to stick to that rule and rely on photo-editing software to help me out if I need it. He also taught us how to make a faux tripod to steady ourselves when our shutter speed is taking just a little bit too long.

Light is a dominant theme in religious traditions also.

  • Christianity: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5),
  • Islam: “Knowledge makes you free from the chains of ignorance, and revives your heart, knowledge takes you out from the darkness of suspicions and superstitions, and gives a new light to your eyes. (Hazrat Abu Ali Saqfi)
  • Judaism: “I will say to the prisoners, ‘Go free!’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Come out to the light!’ (Isaiah 49:9)
  • Buddhism: “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” (Gautama Buddha)
  • Hinduism: “One who kindles the light of awareness within gets true light.” (Unattributed)
  • Baha’i: “Grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth.” (Bahá’u’lláh)

The general thrust is that light is a metaphor for that which brings us to a higher consciousness or awareness, provides hope, guidance, and love. It is a beautiful thing when, through appropriate use of light, we can communicate a deeper exploration of these qualities—awareness of what is unseen, hope, love, beauty—a very real reflection of life. And sometimes, light lets you see something in a different way.

My favorite picture that I’ve ever taken of one of my children captures light and it seems, to me, to convey innocence and an essential quality of “child” that is so easy to forget. This is an old photo, by the way! And the picture isn’t perfect, but it still conveys a lightness of being that transcends the particular quality of the photo.

by Terri Stewart CC License (BY-NC)
by Terri Stewart
CC License (BY-NC)

How do the following pictures and their use of light point to something beyond the images captured in the photo?

Light Collage by Terri Stewart
Light Collage
by Terri Stewart

What do thoughts of light lead you to? Do you have a favorite photo that features light or the absence of light?

 

Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
Photography, CC License (CC BY-NC)

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

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

 

 

Sacred Space in 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.

 

 

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