Climate Care as Spiritual Practice

Editorial Note:  With this piece by Terri Stewart (Cloaked Monk) we announce our focus for 100,000 Poets (and others) for Change 2016, environment and environmental justice. We continue our Facebook group discussion page. Let us know if you would like to be included in that.

Terri is also the lead for the upcoming November issue of The BeZine. The theme for that zine issue, which will publish on the 15th of November, is at-risk youth. 

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Caring for all that is can be an overwhelming job! If I think of the things within my control and trying to do the best I can, maybe I can do it in bite-size chunks. After all, I will never be able to invent some magical thing that converts pollution to life-giving energy. But I can compost!

Call on the animals to teach you; the birds that sail through the air are not afraid to tell you the truth. Engage the earth in conversation; it’s happy to share what it knows. Even the fish of the sea are wise enough to explain it to you. In fact, which part of creation isn’t aware, which doesn’t know the Eternal’s hand has done this? His hand cradles the life of every creature on the face of the earth; His breath fills the nostrils of humans everywhere. Job 12:7-10, The Voice-A Storyteller’s Bible

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Climate-care, earth-care, creation-care, creature-care, caring is a deeply spiritual practice. How we approach the other starts with our interior orientation. If we practice expansive spirituality, we will be filled with gratitude, mindfulness, and joy. If not, we will be led to a diminished experience.

I wonder how we could reconnect, simply, through ritual, to creation? Perhaps a mini-ritual?

1. Set your sacred space

What are you trying to connect to? Earth? Cosmos? Stars? Bunnies? Create an easy environment where you can let your gaze gently rest on a photo, object, or even the real thing!

2. Set your intention

What do you need at this moment? For example, “I am here to connect to the earth in a way that honors the createdness of us all.”

3. The body of the ritual

Combining your intention with a ritualized act. For example, if you were sitting outside on a lawn chair, offering honor to the cosmos during the day, you could gradually look around honoring each creation you see. “Blades of grass, I honor you. Cedar trees, I honor you. Beloved cat, I honor you!”

4. Closing ritual

A signifier that it is finished. Perhaps, if you were outside in the grass, you could bring a handful of grass seeds to add to the growth. Then you could sprinkle the grass seeds in all directions, offering life. 

Be creative! This framework for ritual was created by my friend, Deborah Globus. Her avatar is LaPadre. She’s awesome!

Shalom and Amen!

Terri Stewart

by Terri Stewart

© 2014, words and illustration, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terrisignoffblog

Inviting Sacred Space Into our Intentions

flickr photo by B Duss  cc licensed ( BY NC )
flickr photo by B Duss
cc licensed ( BY NC )

There is a lot said now about doing things “with intention.” Deepak Chopra says that “intention is the starting point of every spiritual journey.” But sometimes I think we take the concept of intention and confuse it with goals. Setting an intention, “live more compassionately,” becomes conflated with the actions that it takes to reach the goal of compassion. What is a more compassionate life? A life that feeds the hungry? Houses the homeless? Goes into places of deep discomfort? Maybe. It is here that our intention becomes about action or about doing.

But what if it is not about what we do to become a compassionate person, but about inviting compassion to fully invade our being. Dr. Dyer says that this is the process of intention is to allow freedom to enter your consciousness and letting go, becoming free. It separates from what you want and becomes what you are.

“You have to just be. You have to let go. You have to allow. You have to be free and make this your consciousness.” He continues, “Basically, what you would see is a frequency (of energy) that manifests itself through the process of giving, of allowing, of offering and of serving. It asks nothing back.”

Dr. Dyer illustrates the concept of giving without expectations by quoting the great poet Hafiz: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’ Just think of what a love like that can do. It lights up the whole world.”

It seems it is a process of claiming an intention, inviting it in, and then releasing it. Not that we should not be doing, but our aim is not in the doing, it is in the being.

My friend, Deborah Globus at LaPadre recently wrote a short ritual for intention setting. I’d like to share it here so you can, if you like, invite sacred space into your intentions … or … release your intentions to the sacred.

What You’ll Need:

  • Candles (tapers) and candle holders
  • Matches/lighter
  • Carving knife (pocket knives, steak knives and paring knives all work equally well.)
  • Sharpies markers for decoration (optional)

What You’ll Do:

Meditate on what you’d like to bring in

Choose 1-3 words or symbols to represent what you’d like to bring in

Carefully carve into the candle (or write it on with Sharpies or paint pens.)

Light your candle. As the wax melts your intention is released to the Universe.

Resources:

Monthly Newsletter from LaPadre http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs139/1101784704875/archive/1116388396325.html

“The Power of Intention” http://www.drwaynedyer.com/articles/the-power-of-intention

“The Power of Intention” http://archive.chopra.com/namaste/intention

Youtube Time Lapse of a Candle Melting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edtoA4vKMyE

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart
terri

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

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

Claiming Rites of Passage

St. Luke's columbarium
St. Luke’s columbarium

A few years ago, I went to an exhibit on mummies at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  It was fascinating.  Listening to the whispered comments and questions of other patrons was fascinating as well.  We have a very scattered cultural approach to death, with so many various ways of marking the rite of passage, including not really marking it at all.

American culture, as a whole, has been dominated by technology to the point that important parts of our lives are relegated to “experts” and taken out of our hands completely.   My mother fought against this trend in the late 50s when she insisted on breastfeeding her babies instead of allowing the “experts” to convince her that artificial formula on an artificial schedule was better for them.

Birth experiences have become sterilized, institutionalized, and anesthetized as well in the mainstream. My 4 were all born in a hospital under the HMO system (but not under any pain killers!) because in my 20s, I wasn’t brave enough to seek more creative options.   However, my sister birthed one of her children at home, and I once assisted a friend who had a home birth.  It’s not impossible to choose to take full responsibility in this event.

Death is another part of life that more and more people deal with by proxy. The hospice movement is a wonderful example of the purposeful effort to maintain the grace and dignity of this stage of life by bringing it back into the home, away from institutions.  I recently watched an Ingmar Bergman movie set at the turn of the century, called Cries & Whispers (well, it’s actually called something in Swedish, but that’s the English title).  This intense family drama deals with the death of a spinster sister from cancer.  The action all takes place at home, in this case an elegant manor.  The doctor’s largest role is in an affair with one of the sisters, in flashback.  When I think of the family drama of my husband’s death, experts and technology played a huge part.  Unfortunately, that became a distraction from entering into the rite of passage, from experiencing the more intimate aspects of the dynamics that were changing my family.  What I mean to say is that it enabled denial.

The last photo taken of me & my husband
The last photo taken of my husband: 11 days before he died at home.

What does it mean to choose to take responsibility for my life?  Not to delegate the more painful or complicated bits to an “expert”, not to live by proxy or by representative?  In which situations do I most often abdicate my ability to decide a course of action?  Are they likely to be mostly financial, political, medical, social, spiritual, emotional or physical?  I am only beginning to wake up and ask myself these questions.  Steve often puts it to me this way: in every situation, you have at least 3 options:  1) Run away or hide  2) Try to change the situation  3) Change yourself.

This is a good time for me to think about aging, about how I want to live and address the changes that are happening now and will continue to happen.  What do I want?  I want to experience life in a more authentic way, not behind a duck blind or a proxy, not behind a curtain of denial or dogma, not by avoiding discomfort or hard work.  I want to make decisions about who I am and how to live proactively.  How do I embody this?  At this point, I am still figuring out who I am and want to be and recognizing places where that has been dictated and I have responded without looking deeper.   My father and my husband took great care of me.  I want to learn to do that myself.   I often dream about Jim returning as if he’d never died.

Last night, I had a powerful dream about him, set in the house I sold, with my young children around.  My consciousness struggled with it; I knew that the house was emptied and I’d moved.  I couldn’t understand why the furniture was back and the place looked so “lived in”.  I couldn’t understand why Jim was there.  He told me he was going out to work because he wanted to support me and the kids.  In a choked whisper, I closed the door behind him and said, “Don’t come back.”  I woke up crying.  Talking about this dream with Steve, I realized that I do want him to come back and float through my subconscious and consciousness without confusing me, without affirming me or correcting me, just visiting.  I suppose when I gain the confidence to affirm and care for myself, my dreams will change and Jim’s place in them as well.  Then we will both move beyond this Bardo and into a different sphere.

—- Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Affairs of the Heart

“Sudden massive coronary events” are dominating my thinking lately.  I am reading Joan Didion’s account of her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking and recently browsed the pertinent pages of Ekaterina Gordeeva’s book My Sergei while waiting for Steve to glean salable items from Good Will on Tuesday.   I am also writing my own memoirs of my husband Jim in a Continuing Ed course.  What struck me this morning was the role of the grieving person’s best friend as hero.  Not the knight-in-shining-armor type hero, but the simple, calming presence modelling a way to be.  In a moment when shock obscures all notions of how to act, having a trusted person exhibit some caring, helpful behavior is a distinct grace.

My mother was that hero to me when my sister was killed in a car crash.  Alice and I were traveling across country together, enjoying the freedom of being 20 and (almost) 17 when it happened.  My mother cobbled together connecting flights from San Jose to reach me in Nebraska the next morning.   She got me discharged from the hospital and set us up in a hotel while she went through all the details of bringing Alice’s ashes back to California.  We went to the mortuary the next day.  I was still rather zombie-like while my mother handled the business.  Then the director asked us if we would like to see the body.  “Absolutely,” was my mother’s reply.  For some reason, I hadn’t realized that was why we were there.  I hesitated.  Mom led me into the room while the director closed the door.  “Oh, honey,” she sighed as she approached the table.  “No, she’s not there.  She’s gone.  Look here…” she began to comment on Alice’s wounds, on her swollen face and how old she looked, as if she were a battered wife decades in the future.  My mom said something about all the suffering her daughter had been spared.  Then she tenderly bend down and kissed that pale, waxy forehead.  My mother has never looked more beautiful to me in all my life than she did at that moment.  Strong, compassionate, wise and incredibly beautiful.  I wanted to be like her, so I kissed my sister’s forehead, too.

photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa
photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa

Gordeeva writes about her coach, Marina, prompting her to go into the ICU room where her husband lay.  “Don’t be afraid.  Go talk to him.  He can still hear you.”  She goes in and begins to unlace his skates, a normal gesture that helps loosen her words, her tears, her emotions.  I remember our priest asking me and two of my daughters if we’d like to anoint Jim with some olive oil, bathe his face, and prepare his body to be taken away.  It was a relief to excuse ourselves from the people downstairs in the living room and go up to him together, to say our goodbyes together, to touch him one more time.  I am so grateful someone thought of allowing us that right then.  We had another opportunity to say goodbye to his body at the funeral home later when my two other children came home.  By then, I could take the lead with them and encourage them to approach.  I can’t remember who started humming “Amazing Grace”, but we all joined in, musical family that we are, and swayed together, arms and bodies entwined.

In the aftermath of Jim’s death, my youngest daughter and I fought frequently.  I didn’t know how to talk to her, to listen to her anger directed at me and recognize that she wasn’t hateful, only grieving.  Steve was the one who suggested that she was hurt, not hurtful and agreed to sit by me while we attempted an honest conversation.  My instinct was to run away.  I was grateful to observe someone who could be calm and present, reasonable and compassionate in the face of powerful emotions that frightened me.  He is adamant about not rescuing me, but equally determined to be the best friend he can be.

I hope that I will have opportunities to be a great friend to someone in grief.  I would like to be a conduit of such grace.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.