Entering the Sacred Space of Peacefulness

For 100,000 Poets for Change: A Movement for Peace and Sustainability. Please link in your own work! The info on this is below the photo/quote. Thank you!

Entering into a peaceful world requires one thing – a peaceful person. Me, to be exact. Or you. But each of us individually must travel the Via de Paz, the Way of Peace. I would like to invite you to literally walk the Via de Paz (or roll or stroll or whatever works for you).

Set your intention by saying, “I am here. I am present. I am going to walk the way of peace.” Breathe deeply, a few sustainable breaths, until your body is ready to go forward.

Now move and notice. As you begin to move, notice how your body feels. What are your senses telling you about your immediate experience of the world?

Now notice things outside yourself. Connect your senses to all that is outside of yourself. Notice what you are hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling. With each step, become aware of all that you can take in. Simply experience it. Leave judgment outside of the Via de Paz.

Experience unity by acknowledging life in its many forms.

Close your experience by returning to yourself and offering, “I am here. I am present. I am the way of peace.” Breathe deep, sustaining breaths, until you are settled and still. Offer respect and peace to the world in whatever way suits you. Perhaps Shalom, Salaam, Peace, Namaste, or Aloha!

peaceflower2

 

 

PEACE AND JUSTICE is our theme for the next seven days as we participate in a global event 100,000 Poets for Change

Please link in your own work here by using Mister Linky (just click on it) or by leaving your link in the comments section below. One of us will visit you then and we also plan to collect all the links shared with us to create a special commemorative page on this blog. You are welcome to share your work by linking in on any day or days during this event. Thank you! Let’s reimagine the world together. Our art has power …

Shalom,

territerrisignoffblog

 

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 the Fault Zone

During the week of August 31 – September 6, The Bardo Group will post essays, photos and poems on Wilderness to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into law in the U. S.  More information is at the end of this post-scroll down!

Throughout religious history, wilderness has been associated with sacred space. Mt. Zion, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Olympus, the wilderness outside Jerusalem, Heart Butte, Sacred Bear Butte, and the list goes on. Sacred places which attract people questing for beauty and for a glimpse into something beyond us. All over the world, people religious live in the wilderness–the Celtic “thin places.” Places where the realm between what is and what could be seem unified in a spiritual wild-zone. Thin places offer the potential for transformation. I’d like to invite you to travel into the wilderness of “The Earthquake Trail” with me and Colin (my son).

1-earthquaketrailThe Earthquake Trail is north of San Francisco and goes directly over the San Andreas fault. We went there after my son had surgery and had his post-surgery “clearance” checkup. This surgery was necessary for Colin to continue his path to a transformed, fulfilled, abundant life. It seems appropriate that we visit a place where sudden transformation has and will occur. And as the sign so appropriately points out, “Prepare yourself for the uncertainty of walking in the fault zone.

2It seems to me, that is what the wilderness experience is about. Confronting uncertainty and coming through it with a greater appreciation for the faults that lie within ourselves…and with others. But most importantly, recognizing the power that our faults have when they rage out of control and the beauty they hold when they illustrate our uniqueness.

4There is life in the fault zone. New life of grains, older life of majestic trees, even dried moss hanging on lifelessly-for now-waiting to be reborn during the moist days ahead. And most majestically, the California Condor–a bird rebounding from extinction in the wild. Life is abundant here, in the fault zone.

10Prickly thistles adding color and leaves hanging in the balance–proving even the most uncomfortable plant can provide beauty and buoyancy.

5But no matter where we are, there comes a point when we have to make a choice. Do we stay here? Or do we go deeper? Will we cross the bridge? Ford the stream?

6Once we cross, as before, there are boundaries. Places that are “in” and are “out.” Boundaries can be places of support and beauty as we grow and become comfortable with our faults.

7But our boundaries are not always healthy. Sometimes they need to be reset. Transformation happens in an upsetting of power that tumbles our soul pell-mell through the wilderness. What used to be a contiguous, easy, fence breaks and a new boundary is set. Opening up space for abundant love.

9
This fence was moved from “here” to “there” during an earthquake. It used to be one, straight fence.

And this happens within the wilderness and ancient trees that dwarf our understanding of life. But always stretching it upward and onward.

11Inviting us to further journey along the path.

12Following the inspiration that calls to us. No matter which way the wind blows. Finding sacred space in the fault zone.

13
Weathervane at the Earthquake Zone Visitor’s Center

Shalom and Amen!

terri

 

 

Simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

You are encouraged to add your voice to ours on this site via Mister Linky or by sharing a link to your work in the comments section of any post that week.  Although this is an U.S. event, we recognize that there are places all over the world that are still wild and that are protected by naturalists, scientists, governments and concerned citizens. Hence, we invite participation from everywhere. We think it would be a good thing for us to share information and insights about the world’s many wild places though poems, essays, photographs, music and videos. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  

 

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Sacred Space in Perfection Part II

It seems that Perfection is the hot topic this week! I was inspired last week to talk about perfection and its historical evolution in meaning based on a post by Corina on Perfection and Creation. And lo! Another post popped up! This time by Liliana, titled On Perfection. All this thinking on perfection inspired me to think of moments of visual perfection.

Are these moments the best photograph? No. The best looking “insert blank”? No. The best, most perfectest representation? No. But what they are is a moment captured that pulls on…well, it just pulls. Like tug-of-war, except that I cannot see the other team! That team is somewhere over the horizon.

Therefore, I’d like to offer the following photos and gleaned ideas about perfection as a setting of sacred space.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”― Marcus Aurelius

IkeKinswa-0119

“If everything is imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most perfect in its perfect imperfection. ” ― Gunnar Björnstrand

Sacrament40

“Absolute perfection is here and now, not in some future, near or far. The secret is in action – here and now. It is your behavior that blinds you to yourself. Disregard whatever you think yourself to be and act as if you were absolutely perfect – whatever your idea of perfection may be. All you need is courage.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

IkeKinswa-0142

“Perfection is not a destination; it’s a never-ending process…Enjoy!” ― Jim Bouchard

IkeKinswa-0100

“Perfect should never be a goal. Perfect just happens if you let it.” ― Wendy Wunder

2013_05_08_0127

“One in All
All in One–
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect (175)” ― Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures

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“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” ― 1 John 4:12, Christian Scriptures

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“The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.” ― Oscar Wilde

mukilteo

“There is something perfect to be found in the imperfect: the law keeps balance through the juxtaposition of beauty, which gains perfection through nurtured imperfection.” ― Dejan Stojanovic

DSC_0052

“The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts.” Abdu’l-Baha (Star of the West, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 41.), Bahai Teaching

2013_05_09_0165

“The power of thought is the light of knowledge, the power of will is the energy of character, the power of heart is love. Reason, love and power of will are perfections of man.” ― Ludwig Feuerbach

hawaii

Shalom and Amen!

~Terri

All Photos by Terri Stewart, simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

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

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 Photography: Perspective

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

Perspective is how we look at things. In a lot of ways it can be correlated with our privilege. When we have a lot of privilege in terms of social, economic, and political capital, we tend to see things from an empowered or “power over” perspective. When we have don’t have a lot of privilege, we tend to see things from a “power under” perspective. So our perspective on life or power placement has a lot to do with how we encounter others.

In my religious tradition, and in most spiritual movements (in my understanding), there is a movement to put power down and to empower those who have little power. Just a sampling:

  • Christianity has the beatitudes as a starting point,
  • Islam has the practice of charity,
  • Judaism has the call to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among us,
  • Buddhism feels it is important to support the poor and needy,
  • Hinduism practices that all life forms are respected and should be treated well.
  • Baha’i faith which embraces loving kindness for all life forms and truth in all sacred scriptures (thank you to readers for adding on!)

And it goes on! So it seems that in the great religious traditions, the practice of caring for those who are among “the lost, the least, and the lonely” is of paramount importance. I think the challenge is moving from a position of “power over” to a position of “power with.” This involves a change of perspective. (See, I’m getting to the photographic point!)

I think that if our spiritual practices support our daily living, we will have more effective daily living! If we need to work on finding different perspectives from “power over,” then one way to do it is through photography as a spiritual practice.

How we see things tells a story. Perspective is a spiritual practice and can be embodied in our photography practice. How does it change your view if, instead of being up high as an adult, you crouched down or laid down? One recent photo I took is a great example for perspective. One of my friend’s comment was: “I wish I had a mouse on a skateboard!” Which brought an even new viewpoint because I definitely would not have thought of that! However, once she said that, I now have a perpetual picture of a mouse playing on the below log.

perspective

To get this photo, I had to crouch way down onto the log and become one with the dirt. It looks way cool from here. The photo from standing up is not nearly as fun. It loses the “going on forever” perspective.

Over time, I’ve gotten better at thinking of doing this—of finding new perspectives. The same is true in my life—almost to a fault! I might over-identify with some of my people who are among the lost, the least, and the lonely. Sometimes. But by noticing new perspectives in photography, it models for me new perspectives in my spiritual life and then new perspectives in my lived life.

  • See the world in a new way
  • See the divine in a new way
  • See others in a new way

Below are three photos of trees—the same trees with different perspectives (on the same hike). I think each one tells a different story.

treecollage

Applying this to the ideas of perspective & our story as embodied in relationships of power over, power with, or power under—how can we develop the flexibility to enter into another perspective?

You never know what you will see when you begin to enter into another perspective. I found this lovely leaf cradling a little tiny leaf. How beautiful! And it makes me remember the way we should cradle one another.

leafinleaf

Who will you cradle today by seeing something with a new perspective?

Shalom and Amen!

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

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

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

 

Sacred Space in the Frame

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

Thomas Merton has a photograph he titled “Sky Hook.” He wrote about it, “It is the only known picture of God.” It is definitely not what you would expect! No heavenly skies, no angels, no beard. What was Merton thinking…a simply construction hook hanging from the sky towards the earth. (You can see the photo many places on the internet, but I couldn’t find a place with clear permissions.)

Often we see photos that prompt us to stop, look, and to appreciate what we have seen but also to wonder about something more. That something more can be something bigger or something smaller. My new friend and photographer, Paul Jeffrey, takes photos for the United Methodist Church for the General Board of Global Ministries—yes! He is a photographer-missionary. He typically focuses on the beauty and stories found in people. There is a photo of a young child in a box (all kids like to sit in boxes, no matter where they are in the world!)  He recently shared this photo with us in a small group and talked about the story. He said there was a huge reaction to the photo. Such a beautiful, young child abandoned in a box! What the photo does not show is that the family was just out of the frame.

How we frame our photographs tells a story.

What if Merton’s photo had the construction equipment in it? What if Jeffrey’s photo had the family in it? Would it tell a different story? Would that story be better? Worse? More effective? Less effective? What does this say about how we frame the stories of our own lives?

Framing is a spiritual practice. Or at least knowing what we are cutting from the frame. If we willingly cut off parts of the frame to focus our attention onto another part, that is fine. For the moment. But if we willingly cut of parts of the frame and never return to the whole, something is lost. I am thinking, in particular, of people who do things like cutting science out of their lives or people who cannot see the whole spectrum of society. When we get caught up in our own particularity, we forget the universal journey. And we forget that the child in a box has a loving, concerned family.

Below is a collage of one of my photos that I framed in two different ways. They tell completely different stories, in my opinion!

birdcollage

You don’t even have to be a photographer to understand the importance of framing. Hold your hands up around your face, blocking parts of your viewing field, and you will be able to frame your vision. Sitting right where you are!

In photography, we can say, “Where does framing help tell the story? Where does it hurt the story?”

In our lives we can say,

Where has framing helped you tell your own story? Where has it hurt you?

I’d love it if you would share your blog and perhaps a photo comparing two different ways of framing. That would be wonderful! 

birdatcemetary

    Shalom and Amen!

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

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

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

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 Stillness

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

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

Be Still
by Velma Frye

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

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

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

What will you do to create stillness in your life?

How can you use darkness to create wholeness?

quiet

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

..

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

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

Creating Sacred Space Wherever You Live

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

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

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

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

Holy:

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

 Sacred:

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

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

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

Haleakala Sunset by Terri Stewart
Haleakala Sunset
by Terri Stewart

Shalom,

Terri Stewart

(c) 2013, post & photo, Terri Stewart

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

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

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

Finding Sacred Space In the Other

This week in my church, it has been filled with conflict and dissension. That makes for a tough week! Let me clarify – structurally, from the upper echelon of the decision-making bodies, there has been a reinforcement of codified discrimination and what I think is just pig-headed wrongness. Ha! I am not feeling very charitable at all. I always have the choice of staying within the system or leaving. But leaving does not really move the ball forward for me. Why? Because my basic anthropology is that we are all connected. Even if I left this system and surrounded myself with folks that were just like me (how irritating that would be!), I am still connected to the people that I find the most frustrating.

Harrumph.

Then, I discovered this exercise written by Troy Bronson in his book Drawn In. It is an exercise for integration and forgiveness. Or perhaps forgiveness and integration. I am fairly certain that full integration is not possible without forgiveness! At any rate, I have adapted his exercise and now I offer it to you as a spiritual practice to aid in integrating those people that drive us bananas.

Take a piece of paper and fold it in half twice so that you have four quadrants. In the bottom right list your enemies: those who mean harm to you and your family; those who are politically opposed to what you are for; those who persecute you and others associated with your causes and passions.

In the bottom left list your friends: advocates for those associated with your religious, political, or social causes. Write all of this so that both groups are at the bottom of the page, with only a crease separating them.

On the Horizon (c) 2013, Terri Stewart
On the Horizon
(c) 2013, Terri Stewart

Now, draw a horizontal line to separate both groups from the empty top half of the page. Read this adapted version of Psalm 121.

I look to the hills!
Where will I find help?
It will come from the immense force
that created the stars, sun, sky,
And earth.

You are protected by Love,
And Love will not sleep
Or stumble
Or snooze.
Love always is.
Protecting you,
Standing at your right side,

The Tree shades us from the sun
The sun will not harm you
Nor will the
Moon.
Protecting you,
Keeping you safe from
All
Dangers.

The incredible creative force
That was, that is, that shall be
Is with you.
Now and always.
Wherever you go.

Reflect on the line, “I look to the hills!” and imagine that the line you’ve drawn is a horizon line made by hills way off at the distance. Imagine your friends and your enemies looking into a future where all things are met with love, justice, and mercy. Where the separating walls between these two groups are healed and taken down. Where the grievances are forgiven. Where they gaze lightly upon one another and see beloved rather than the other.

Now, offer your thoughts to love and reconciliation choosing to step forward into the hills that were once a divider, but now, as we all step into them, cocoon us in beauty.

Adapted from Ephesians 2:11-22

Don’t forget that you used to be the other! The enemy! They used to call you crude and rude. You were a foreigner in this land with no understanding of tradition. You had no hope and were held far away from life giving love.

Creative, responsive love unites all in peace! Breaking down the laws that separate us – that separated us. Following religious rules that are not grounded in loving kindness is not helpful! We all suffer, feel pain. But we are all one, one body united together. We are in this one life together.

You are no longer a stranger or an enemy! You are beloved. Just as those you persecute are beloved. All who went before you are the foundation for who you are today. And it is held together by Love and grown into holy ground where Loving Kindness dwells.

You are part of that holy ground.
You are holy ground.
They are holy ground.
We are
Holy
Ground.

There is no near and no far.
There is only here.
Be one.

Shalom and 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

Peace Give I to Thee

Wow, the first in the series of Poets Against War or Poets for Peace. Hopefully I can do it justice! In riffing on peace and war, several things came together in my mind – or rather, many things came hopping through it! I hope the resulting series of images, words, and music will act as a meditation for you on this first day of Poets Against War. This will be synchro-posted at my blog, http://www.cloakedmonk.com. Feel free to reblog or synchropost elsewhere just link back to here.

First, a meme (my new favorite weird thing to do – make memes)…

wonka

Second, I have been noodling this around and the predominant thought I had was to sing a duet with my son, Colin Stewart. Colin is 17 and much more talented than I! But we held it together in order to sing an old church song, Peace Give I to Thee. Colin is playing the ukelele and singing. I confess that our sound system is not wonderful, so we both tempered ourselves to not blow out the microphones. It is accompanied by photos I took in the Bellevue Botanical Garden which bring me incredible peace.

Finally, the nature of the quest: Poets Against War or Poets for Peace. So black and white, it begs a reflection.

dichotomy

war destroys peace

hate destroys love

butterfly destroys chrysalis

child destroys dandelion

lion destroys lamb

lamb redeems lion

dandelion redeems child

chrysalis redeems butterfly

love redeems hate

peace redeems war

unity

 butterfly

And another old favorite, “Breathe Deep” by the Lost Dogs which speaks to the unity of all-even when we are uncomfortable with that unity.

Peace Out!

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.

then the blaze

Then the Blaze
Then the Blaze

blaze dances wildly-
a tango of love
between earth and air

reaching a full roar-
a symphonic orchestration
of heat and wind

creating a searing heat-
a blistering of the senses
by forces of good and evil

be the blaze

dance passionately
roar completely
sear injustice.

© 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

Connecting with the Mountain

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, there is a unique descriptor that books have been written about. It is the “none zone.” As in, “What is your religious preference?”

Answer: “None.”

I live here, in the none zone. However, there is a curious thing that happens as soon as the sun comes out. People start going up into the mountains climbing as high and as far as their bodies will let them. Going on a trail, you will never be alone. There are always people traveling with you. I thought, today as I hiked, “This is Pacific Northwest church!” Meaning people are seeking a mystical experience by going up as high as they can and as deep into nature, away from the cities, as they can.

short_semitic_viewLong ago, I mean a really long time ago, about 3,000 BCE or so, the ancient semitic worldview was quite different from our worldview. The world was flat, the mountains held up the dome of heaven, the concept was that the higher you went up the mountain, the closer you got to the divine. A concrete example of this is the many times that Moses went up the mountain in Hebrew scripture. He goes up to speak to God and comes back down to lead the people. I have included a picture depicting the ancient semitic worldview.

The picture doesn’t quite get across the idea that the highest mountain top was considered to be directly underneath the throne of heaven. So if you could get to the tippy top, you could be the closest to the divine.

In many ways, the folks here, although not religious, are seeking an experience of transformation that happens at the top of the mountain.

Seeing the beauty in sparkling water or the dappled shadows of leaves on the trail. Hearing delighted laughter as a child discovers the lake around the corner or standing still while a bird communes with you. Each act of curiosity, amazement, and even perseverance is an act of transformation. And transformation expands your heart, maybe even up to three times (odd reference to the Grinch here-“and his heart grew three times that day”)!

Baring MountainHiking, for me, feeds into my spiritual practice of contemplative walks. Coincidentally, it feeds into the ancient pattern of going to the top of the mountain to experience the divine. It is not only the ancient semitic people that did this! I am reminded particularly of the Blackfeet from Heart Butte, Montana. Their most sacred spot (no photos) is at the top of a mountain. There is a tree and people carry their prayers and offerings to that tree and put them there. It feels sacred. It is the holder of dreams and hopes. Hopefully, that is what our spiritual practices lead us to! A place inside our bodies that can hold dreams and hopes–and great sorrow.

Mountains are both physical and metaphorical. Not all of us can climb up a mountain (I am not going to go all the way to the top of Mt. Rainier!). But we all face challenges. Our challenges can either be transformational or they can get us stuck in the mud. So all of this is really a wind-up to get to the questions!

  • What is your mountain?
  • Can you go up it?
  • Do you need to go around it?
  • Is there a creative, third way to approach the mountain?
  • What spiritual practices will strengthen you for the journey?

And now I’m suddenly remembering a children’s song / chant called, “Goin’ on a Bear Hunt.”

Can’t go over it!

Can’t go under it!

Oh no!

We’re gonna go through it!

What do you have to go through? And how will you go through it?

Shalom and Amen!

~Chaplain Terri

© 2013, post, 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 with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church and 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.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

 

This I Believe

windowOne of the most difficult things that humans do is make meaning from their current situation. In seminary, we were asked to do any assignment called, “This I Believe.” I still treasure the product of that assignment and will share it below. If you’re curious about the origins of the meaning of the word belief in Christian Biblical literature, there is a brief summary here. Regardless, here are a few questions to ponder and be thoughtful about –

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

Terri Stewart, May, 2009
Post and photo, Terri Stewart, (c) 2013 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 with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts 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

One Foot in Front of the Other

Walking is a spiritual practice that I am predisposed to. After all, photography would not happen unless I walked around! Simply putting one foot in front of the other, time after time, without expectation of arrival at an end point is a contemplative practice. Recently, though, I discovered a new way of viewing walking as a contemplative practice. This practice had an end point and I was completely aware of all the w’s – who, what, when, where, why. I was not letting go and receiving images (well a little). I was literally focused on my feet and putting my feet, one step at a time, on stable ground.

And this is a metaphor. Sometimes, sitting at our desk or listening to our loved ones, can be a practice of just being aware of what is now and putting your best effort towards arriving at the next now. One step at a time.

As you continue reading, consider the questions, “In what area of my life can I start (or continue) putting one foot in front of the other? What new story will be created?

Here is my story.

Monday, I went hiking to Bridal Veil Falls / Lake Serene in the Central Cascade mountains of Washington. It was a spectacular day. (The weather is forecast to be fabulous all week-long in Seattle leading me to believe somebody is playing with our emotions.) I felt confident I could do the +7 mile hike. BUT I forgot to look at the way the path is (smooth vs. rocky) and the grade or “up-ness.”

I started out on the popular path and asked a co-hiker what to expect and she told me it was steep but that it was worth it. And that there were a lot of switchbacks. OK. I can do this! I will just take my time and be careful.

In February of this year, I was going through a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Now most folks just think that this is digestive only. Well, it is not. It causes inflammation in every part of my body. It grew tumors in my ovaries. I had a period for 3 weeks. I was severely anemic. The test didn’t say, “Low,” it said “Alert!” I could not walk up a short hill without being severely out of breath because I had very few mature red blood cells to carry oxygen around. In short, it stank.

And, over the last few years I have had surgery on my left ankle (torn tendon) and my right foot (two! neuromas crowding out my middle toes). I couldn’t walk without pain until, oh, last year after the neuroma surgery. Generally, I count every pain-free step a success. Would my feet hold out? Always a question. And with the ankle surgery, I generally look for nice, solid, flat ground so my ankle will not roll.

Rats! This path is not smooth. Very rocky. Wet sometimes. Muddy sometimes. But mostly rock, rock, rock. Keep my eyes down and make sure my feet land on flat spots! That’s the plan.

Anyway, I started up the path at my own pace. I got a little less than two miles in and found the below sight. I tried really hard to capture this thing that was happening with the sun and the water! It looked like liquid sunshine was pouring off the top of the waterfall. My eyes received the beautiful image of sunshine being poured down the mountain, could my camera receive it? A little.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_12-05-17

At any rate, it was astounding. And it was the second set of falls I had seen. This mountain is one big slab of granite! (Hence the rocky path) And there is water everywhere. Well, okay, not everywhere, but in a lot of places. It was hard to get a good picture, but earlier, there was a set of falls that were very tall and jagged. But the trees were very overgrown so you could only get glimpses of the splash of light and water. This is the very bottom of that series. I received beautiful images of flowing water.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_16-17-40

I got past the falls and it was two miles to Lake Serene. I was feeling good so decided my body could do this! I kept on going. And going. Up and up. Picking my way carefully through rocks. Resting when I felt overwhelmed. Then there came a moment when I thought that I was not going to be able to do it. I grounded my feet to the earth and drew on the strength of my God and the strength of the earth. I breathed deeply. This had become a spiritual quest.

I kept on going. But at that moment, I felt like giving up. I soon encountered a woman and her dog. They were resting. (Yay for rest!). I asked her how much further. She said, “When you feel like you have been through the worst possible climb, then it is just a bit more up and a little down and you’re there.”

OK. The worst possible climb. I can surely get to this.

I went up and encountered massive rocky path, with only about a 9″ clearance to skinny through. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

I kept going and encountered another massive rocky path, with water and slipperiness. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

Add water and repeat.

Finally, I broke through the shadows of the forest into a sunny meadowy type area (is it a meadow if it is on the side of a mountain?). I looked up and my breath left my body. It. Was. Amazing. I received the most beautiful blues intermingled with a dark granite mountain and white fluffy clouds rising like steam. I remember the story of Moses going up the mountain to be with his God and going into the cloud. This is a place to connect with spiritual strength. I felt strengthened, encouraged, excited, and alive. A complete contrast to how I felt when I was in the shadows.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_13-56-59

I was now in the sun, with this incredible sight, having passed through at least 5 stretches of the worst climb ever. And I saw another worst climb ever in front of me. But my spirits were jubilant. I was in the light and had left the darkness. Amen!

I kept on going. There was one more seriously worst climb ahead and then I was there. Lake Serene.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-52

In fact, this lake feeds into the waterfalls pictured earlier. I had climbed all the way around to the other side. Here is what the top of the waterfall looks like from this same point, just facing the other way.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-23

I clambered through the snow a bit and sat at the closest point I could get to the top of the waterfall. Ate lunch. Relaxed a moment.

Time to head back down. Surely, down would be easier! It always is. Mostly.

On the way down, I kept my head down looking to keep my feet planted so my ankle will not turn. I almost made it. Darn it. One misstep and a turned ankle. Choice – fall in a way to minimize injury or try to get that wobbly ankle to hold me up. Quick decision – my ankle will not withstand the effort to stay firmly up. Fall it is! Sheesh. I hate rocky, downhill, paths. Now, cuts and bruises, scratches and blood. I would hate to see what I looked like.

I crossed back in front of the amazing waterfall that poured sunshine and the woman I had met earlier was there with her dog! She was resting. Her dog decided to try to clean up the scratches on my legs a bit (ha ha!). We chatted a bit and she moved on. I stayed and tried to get some more photos of the falls and take a rest. Oh, and to use the water to wash my arm which has a pretty serious scratch(es).

But, gosh darn it, I did it! I am still on the path. I can still walk. My body is sustaining me. This is such a big deal, you have no idea. I was misdiagnosed for at least 20 years. To be able to do this is the most awesomely amazing thing ever. My muscles don’t even hurt as much today as they did on days the inflammation from being celiac made them hurt. (That was a bad sentence, sorry.)

I kept going. And I made it back to my car by about 5:00 p.m.

The quest was complete.

I am proud that I had the perseverance to keep on pushing through. My blood tests still say “alert” on the iron portion, but it is improving. My ankles and feet are okay today. My right arm and right shin are pretty banged up, but as long as nobody touches them (!) I will be fine.

The return hike took 2 hours. It took me 4 hours to go up.

Walking or hiking as a spiritual practice, for me, is typically about opening myself up to the images around me. Receiving images that I sometimes share here or on my blog. This time, though, it transformed into something else. Instead of receiving the beauty around me, I had to dig deep to connect to the strength of the earth, strength of my faith, and to the strength in my own body in order to find sustenance for the journey. This is a new kind of spiritual practice for me.  I had thought, Monday night, that I would not be eager to repeat this experience. But I am. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other in this way gave me a faith in myself that I sometimes lack. Especially in my own body’s ability to sustain me. That is my new story. I trust my body.

Blessed be.

Shalom and Amen.

~Chaplain Terri

Adapted from a post at my blog. Trials on the Trail.

© 2013, post & photos, 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 with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts 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

Connecting to Our Story

New Life, New Story
New Life, New Story

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

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

~Margaret D. McGee, Haiku–the Sacred Art

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

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

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

table

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

Relax, breathe deeply, look around.

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

Continue on in this pattern for each category.

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

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

table2

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

stormy winds of spring

whistle through my breaking heart–

promises unkept

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

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

Shalom,

Chaplain Terri

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

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday Chaplain, Senior Content Editor, and Site Co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

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

What are you witness to?

tracy-arm-fjord-copy

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

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

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

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

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

glacier fed wind

whips across cresting waters

reflecting sun’s glory

frenzied wind

stirring waters to white peaks

be still my soul

shrouded grey waters

revealing iceberg tips

depths hidden

– Terri Stewart

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

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday Chaplain, Senior Content Editor, and Site Co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

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