I am interrupting my series on Sacred Space in the Body. I wish I could say that it was for a lofty reason, but the truth of the matter is that I wrote a sermon that took all the words out of my body and left me with nothing! And this is a beautiful post about resting and sabbath that I co-created with my FB friend and photographer, Tom Ganner. Originally published at BeguineAgain.com. I’ll be back on track with Sacred Space in the Elder Body next week.
Today’s theme of sacred space in rest is offered by photographer Tom Ganner. Tom is a photographer from Haines, Alaska. I met him last year when I went on a cruise. He toured us around Haines to all the “photography” spots. He was so gracious! I encourage you to look at his photography (http://www.timenspace.net/) and if you are in the area, take his tour!
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”
― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
The power is out! I am sharing something I wrote in November 2010. I think it speaks to the spiritual practice of grief work and for preparing for difficult seasons of life. I am going to let it stand as a piece and not edit it on my phone! I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my past.
Often we think of Sabbath as Sunday. In fact, traditionally, Sunday is the Day of the Lord and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday remains the Sabbath time. Recently I went to Shabbat service at Kol Ami to experience the beginning of Sabbath, a dedicated time of reflecting on giving our lives and all there is to God. Going to a Jewish service is a little unnerving as it is generally in Hebrew, however, the Siddur (what would be like a hymnal) is written in Hebrew and English. It also has the transliteration so you can follow along. Whew! That allowed me to sort of keep up.
When I entered the Narthex to join Kol Ami during Shabbat, I was a little nervous. After all, I know what we think when new people come and visit us! Often it is “Hooray!” How odd would it be to become the new person again? And how odd is it to become the new person within a building that I know so well? When I entered, Rabbi Glickman almost recognized me. I said hello and put myself into context for him. He introduced me to a lovely couple in the congregation. I got there just in time to hear their tales of recent loss to Rabbi Glickman. My heart tugged because I know those tales of loss. It has been an entire year devoted to loss for me and to the dangerous work of going through this liminal time in my life. Late last summer we had to put down Sarah, our dog of fourteen years. In October I finally did some very heavy grief work for my mother. In February, a good friend at school died. And not only did he die, but I was the one who had to break the news to my school community. I presided over his memorial service. And then, the capper for me was the loss of my brother in May. Oy vey! And then there have been smaller losses since then. But these were the big boulders for me. The interesting thing that I learned was that each time a smaller loss, it taps into that bigger well of grief that has built up. So even a smaller thing like the ROTC soldier at Seattle U who was killed in Iraq recently, brings up the bigger grief and you have to deal with it again. Then I met Maria and her husband.
Maria shared with me at the Shabbos service recent news they have had of a close friend dying. And this was layered on top of huge challenges they have had over the last year. They are an older couple and have had to face challenging health situations that seem to be coming at them in waves. On top of that, they lost their grandson seven years ago. So these smaller challenges and griefs are tapping into that huge loss in their life. I was so very aware that even though there were many differences between us (religion, culture, age), that coming together in our grief to share the loss together on Shabbat as we recite the Kaddish together was an amazing experiment. Kaddish is recited for all who grieve and is an amazing response of faith. In the deepest grief, the responsive prayer is one of praise to God. It is:
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for u and for all Israel; and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
I am also reminded of all the hurts that can come to us during this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. For children of alcoholic parents, for recovering addicts, for people undergoing the birth of a new way of having family, for those suddenly without family, for those who are alone, even for those of us who very much need to watch our food intake—it can be challenging at best and a minefield at worst. I think my wish for advent, for this time of growth, is that we all can embrace change and loss where we need to knowing that it is gestating into something new that may bring forth a beautiful new life. And in this time of gestation, that we may claim together, the magnificence and glory of our creator who creates peace for us all.
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!)
Last night we went to the synagogue for a healing service and to recite selichot in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. During the service one of the Rabbis told a story about the Seer of Lublin, a Hasidic Master who lived from 1745 to 1815.
Briefly the tale is this. A Hasid travels some distance to see The Seer who looks at him and tells him that since he (the visitor) is to die that night, he should go to a hotel in a nearby village to do so. The Seer explains that as it is the Sabbath a dead body in his house would create enormous problems. The man dutifully sets off for the village, only to meet a cart filled with Hasidim on their way into Lublin to spend the Sabbath with The Seer. They ask him why he is going in the WRONG DIRECTION, and he explains that the Rabbi has sent him away to die. The Hasidim respond that if he is to die he should certainly come with them so as not to die alone. He climbs into the cart and they set off for the city. Soon the men ask our tired journeyer, seeing as he obviously has money, to buy spirits to keep them happy and warm on the trip. He complies and soon all are happily singing and swapping tales. As they travel towards the city our Hasid is heaped with praise, blessings, and hopes for a long a prosperous life. When finally the crew arrives back at the Rabbi’s house, the Rabbi looks at our traveler and says, “Oh, you are indeed lucky. The blessings of your fellows have warded off Death.” It is said the man lived well for several more years.
Having told the tale, the Rabbi spoke to the power of blessing. She assured us she was not convinced blessing another has power in itself, and express concern about magical thinking. She was more certain that gathering in community opens the door to healing. She also spoke about what she saw as shamanic elements in the story. I have long considered the best Hasidic Rebbes to be shamans. Indeed, in many texts The Seer is portrayed as a great shaman, as are many of the best Hasidic Rebbes. After all, he can see the future, determine whether something is fated, and utilize whatever wiggle room is available to aid the members of his extended community to a different fate.
Today I’ve been thinking about the story, as well as the service. It seems to me The Seer saw a way to awaken the Wise Healer within the traveler. Perhaps he knew the man would meet fellow Hasids on their way into town, as The Seer’s congregation was far-flung, yet united in the task of reaching the Rabbi’s home before darkness and the beginning of the Sabbath. Maybe he felt secure in the likelihood his congregants would never let a fellow Hasid die alone. Maybe he, like the founder of Hasidism, The Baal Shen Tov, could, through the good graces of All That Is, intervene directly in the man’s fate. We do not know, and that, too, is part of the mystery and the story.
So this evening we begin the Jewish High Holy Days, the time of remembrance, atonement, and forgiveness, a time we are invited to thoughtfully consider our individual and communal lives. Although I am not Jewish, the rest of our household is, and over the years this time of year has become dear to me. Like the Rabbi I, too, have doubts about magical thinking. Yet, I also believe in the power of compassion, prayer, and joy to awaken the Healer Within persons and communities. Luckily, we have these stories, arising from many traditions, to remind us of our connection to the Creator, one another, and the larger world.
MICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.
Last Sunday, I chose to practice Sabbath—a tradition that was a strong factor in my growing up years, but that waned with my work as a nurse…patients need care every day of the week. Most of us know and understand the concept of a day of rest, but our frenetic lifestyles tend to get in the way.
Sabbath crisscrosses most cultural, spiritual, religious and secular societies, even pre-dating biblical times. The Babylonian Enuma Elish prescribed a day of repose. In the Genesis creation story, God rested after his six days of work and, I suppose it worked out well so that he added it to those tablets of stone he handed on to his people through Moses. Wicca, Islam. Buddhism, Cherokee teaching and others all caution humans to take a break, chill out, and rest. Wisdom, it seems to me, embraces our need for refreshment, for replenishment of body, mind spirit and emotion, for regeneration and reflection.
For many of us, well, for me anyway, the need to be in control seems to take hold and it becomes oh-so-hard to let go of time, accept idleness and non-productivity and, perhaps, the feeling of uselessness. I suspect that there is a trust issue here. Can I really believe that God will take care of things in my absence? Can I believe that the work of creation on this particular day will go on without my amazing intervention?
So, what kind of things did I, Ms-Doing-Not-Being do?
• Meditation—a bit longer than my ordinary routine.
• Journaling. And in the process really waking up to what was happening around me. I wrote of all the wonderful sensory experiences that the pristine late-spring day offered—the finches song, the brilliant orange of the male oriole at our feeder, the spicy scent of new-born flowers and the basil in the vegetable garden. I noticed the play of light and shadow in the now-expansive boughs of the ash tree we planted almost twenty years ago and watched the hummingbirds fly back and forth sipping nectar from both flowers and feeders. I felt the gentle kiss of the breeze and delighted in my dogs’ warm bodies flanking me on either side. I listened to David busy chopping spices in the kitchen.
• Spa Stuff. I pampered myself with a Pomegranate/Cranberry exfoliating scrub courtesy of Burt’s Bees, did a manicure/pedicure and, well, thought about taking a nap. I thanked my body for its almost-seven decades of service and praised the many scars that it bears, a reminder of the life-threatening illness I have survived, for now.
• Creativity. Maybe some consider engaging in the creative process to be work. For moi, I allowed the muse to come out and play, more by way of brainstorming than actualizing any project. Sabbath time allows ideas to gestate and gives clarity as to where to take them.
• And, yes, a final confession. I did laundry. So, it wasn’t a perfect Sabbath, but for this woman who tends towards OCD, that’s probably not a bad thing. Besides, we needed clean clothes!
That night I slept well, but will I be able to repeat the experience? My history tells me that this is not something that comes easily to me. I am aware that Sabbath doesn’t have to always be on Saturday or Sunday, or even occupy an entire twenty-four hours. How would life be different if, each day, I remember to tuck in an hour or even minutes for the divine repose, sit back and let go?
VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ a Contributing Writer to Into the Bardo ,attributes her writing influences to her spirituality, her dealings with grief and loss, and nature. Having spent twenty-eight years as a nun, Victoria left the convent but continued to work as a nurse in the fields of death and dying, Victoria has seen and experienced much. A result of Victoria’s life experience is the ability to connect with readers on an intimate level. She resides in Reno, Nevada, with her husband and two dogs and spends several months of the year in Palm Desert, California.
Winter is Past is her first novel. It was published in 2012 by Lucky Bat Books. She has a second novel in process and also a poetry chapbook. Victoria is also an accomplished blogger and poet who has assumed a leadership role in d’Verse Poet’s Pub. You can read more ofher fine poetry HERE.