Posted in General Interest

WRITING FROM OUR PERSONAL SACRED SPACE, Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen (1932-19960 Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian
Henri Nouwen (1932-1960) Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian

Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’ Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches. ‪#‎HenriNouwen‬ REFLECTIONS ON THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION (unpublished) www.henrinouwen.org

My cousin, Father Daniel Sormani C.S.Sp., shared this quotation with me on Facebook. It is from the Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, Henri Nouwen. I very much agree with Father Nouwen on this matter of writing, its meaning, source and value in our lives.

Suggested reading: My cousin Dan’s article: What Have We Done That People Can Pick Up Weapons and Kill? This article was also featured in our Waging Peace Collection in The BeZine.

Photo credit ~ by Frank Hamilton under CC BY-SA 2.o license

– Jamie Dedes

Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Terri Stewart

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

 

Posted in General Interest

Creating Sacred Space by Honoring the Earth

Today is the People’s Climate March. All across the globe, people are gathering, praying, chanting, and yes! marching! in the hopes that the world’s leaders will hear the call to create safe and sane policies that will ensure the future of the earth. Protecting the earth/cosmos through concern about the changing climate is sacred. It is my contention that to enter sacred space is to enter healing space

Sacred: late 14c., past participle adjective from obsolete verb sacrento make holy” (c.1200)

Holy: Old English halig “holy, consecrated, sacred, godly,” from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (cognates: Old Norse heilagr, Old Frisian helich “holy,” Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags “holy”). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.  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 (see health) and Old High German heilhealth, happiness, good luck

I would like to share a reading from John Cobb, a Process Theologian:

from Is It Too Late?  by John B. Cobb, Jr.
It is the belief in this Spirit, the giver of life and love, that is the basis of hope. In spite of all the destructive forces we let loose against life on this planet, the Spirit of Life is at work in ever new and unforeseeable ways, countering and circumventing the obstacles we put in its path. In spite of my strong tendencies to complacency and despair, I experience the Spirit in myself as calling forth the realistic hope apart from which there is no hope, and I am confident that what I find in myself is occurring in others also.

Since what makes for life and love and hope is not simply the decision of one individual or another, but a Spirit that moves us all, I do not have to suppose that my own efforts are of great consequence in order to believe them to be worthwhile. I can recognize that they may even be futile or misdirected and still persist in them as long as no clearer light is given, for I see what I do as part of something much greater, something in which all persons participate to whatever extent they sensitively respond to the insights and opportunities that come their way. Belief in the Spirit is belief that I am not alone, that in working for life and love in hope, I am working with something much greater than myself, that there are possibilities for the future that cannot be simply projected out of the past, that even my mistakes and failures may be woven into a healing pattern of which I am not now aware.

Belief in the Spirit is no ground for complacency. There is no guarantee that people will respond to the Spirit’s prompting in sufficient numbers and with sufficient sensitivity to begin the healing of the planet. But there is the possibility. The future can be different from the past. Therefore there is hope. Where there is life, there is hope.

Today, my hope for you is that you will have hope. Hope in a sacred, healing space that encompasses not just you. Not just your neighbor. But the entire planet and planets! All beings and non-beings. All life and even non-life — even rocks. And with that thought, I will share this photo of church signs (it is an urban myth thanks to the online church sign maker, but it makes me smile every time!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shalom,

terri

terrisignoffblog

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Perfection

perfection memeRecently, I read dragonkatet’s piece on “Perfection and Creation.” This got me to ruminating on the nature of perfection. In the United Methodist Church, clergy wannabe’s are required to answer the question, “Are you going on to perfection in this lifetime?” And the expected answer is “yes!”

I had heard a rumor in seminary by Dr. Jack Olive that perhaps our understanding of perfection is different than the understanding that early theologians and philosophers had. And that John Wesley turned to Eastern Orthodox wisdom in an effort to better understand perfection. That appealed to me because perfection seems so unattainable. What if there is a different way?

Corina got me thinking about all of this again! Is perfection unattainable? Is perfection only attributable to the Divine? What is up with this kind of pressure we put on ourselves? And as with everything, the truth is that our understanding has drastically changed over time. Which leaves us free to define perfection in a way that leads to greater life.

The Greek concept is where it all begins for western cultures. That word was “teleos.” In many cases, this word is understood to be completeness rather than the common understanding of perfection—“without flaw.”

perfectionchocolateAristotle defines three meanings of perfection:

  1. That which is complete.
  2. That which is so good that nothing can be found better.
  3. That which has attained its purpose.

aquinasquoteThomas Aquinas goes on to give perfection a dual-fold meaning: That which is perfect in itself (its substance) and when it perfectly suits its purpose.

Other philosophers and theologians have defined perfection to be:

  • Endless
  • The greatest
  • Existence

Plato and Parmenides thought that the world was perfect. That it had perfect shape and motion (spherical/circular). The world is perfect, God is not. Attributing perfection, an intellectual concept of humanity, to the Divine, was a heresy.

However, later came the pantheist Stoics who attributed perfection to the Divine. Why? Because the Divine was equivalent with the world. Here, we are just one short step away from the modern idea that only the Divine is perfect and that we all suffer from an inability to be complete in our own bodies and to find and fulfill our purpose. Eventually, Aristotle’s First Cause and Christianity’s Creator became comingled in theology. Although perfection was still not attributed to the Divine as perfection was believed to be finite.

In the 9th century, philosopher Paschasius Radbertus said that “Everything is the more perfect, the more it resembles God.” But still, God was not perfect because of the finiteness ascribed to the concept of perfection. It is Rene Descartes who introduces perfection as applied to the Divine as he introduces the “perfections of God.” However, Descartes also states that “existence itself is perfection.” They may just have been going through a confusion of perfections!

The concept of perfection has undergone great changes throughout human history. “Nothing in the world is perfect”, to “Everything is perfect”; and from “Perfection is not an attribute of God”, to “Perfection is an attribute of God.” (Tatarkiewicz, “Ontological and Theological Perfection,” Dialetics and Humanism, vol. VIII, no. 1 (winter 1981), p. 192.)

perfectionPerhaps it is time to render a definition of perfection that lifts us up and allows us to achieve completeness and fulfill our purpose. In Christianity, we often go back to “The Greatest Commandment.” That is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We then focus on the loving God part and then sometimes the loving your neighbor part but totally neglect the implied love yourself part. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love ourselves, we can achieve completeness, find and fulfill a purpose! Artists gotta art. Preachers gotta preach. Poets gotta poem. Architects gotta design. Caretakers gotta care. And so on. Of course, within all of this is the tension between what we want and what we have. There are limits and sometimes part of loving is setting aside the dream and doing the chore. But that is still part of purpose. And it is still part of perfection.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, totally subscribes to the “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” approach to perfection. He writes,

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown !
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!

I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

easypeasy2Perfection is living life in such a way that “every act, word, thought, be love!” Easy peasy.

Perhaps living a life where everything is derived from love is not so easy. But it is something that I can ascribe to, and with practice, grow into. So perhaps perfection is the process that leads to a complete life fulfilled in acts of love–love that leads to justice, mercy, and humility.

So mote it be!

Shalom,

Terri

Simultaneously published at www.BeguineAgain.com

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Posted in Poems/Poetry, poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Community

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

I thought, “We have that!

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

That is Sacred Space.

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

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

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

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

What comes next?

Shalom,
Terri Stewart

terrisignoffblog

Posted in Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Mental Illness

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

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

And so I offer to you, “ghost town.”

ghost town

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

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

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

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

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

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

so small and still or
so big and booming

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

Terri Stewart, Dec. 2010

terrisignoffblog

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in our Bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Essay, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in All That Is

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

…I was, I AM, I will always be…

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

Couple that with the declaration in the book of Genesis,

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

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

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

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

stardust shimmers

ten thousand light years ago

birthing new life

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

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

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

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

Photograph from the Hubble Telescope, Creative Commons License

terri

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

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

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

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

Part I, here

Part II, here

Part III here

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

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

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

WARNING: EXPLICIT: Saul WIlliams

Brett Dennen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I get an Amen?

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

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

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

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

terrisignoffblog

 

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in our Elder Bodies

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

Part I, here

Part II, here

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

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

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

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

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

Can I get an Amen?

References are here.

Shalom,

Terri

terrisignoffblog

 

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Our Bodies: Women

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

Today, I will be speaking to the point of women and body image. I will be using images, factoids, and spoken word to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space

The problem: Pretty

iraneusquoteAccording to society and the media, pretty is not:

  • Dark skin
  • Dark hair
  • Freckles
  • Fat
  • Crooked noses
  • Old
  • Or short

Pretty is:

  • Pale
  • I’d like to point out that even women I consider quite beautiful such as Beyonce, often have their skin “lightened” in Photoshop for magazine covers.  I am sure this is the editor’s choice.
  • Tall
  • Skinny
  • Young
  • Sexualized
  • Vanity Fair magazine did a survey of who the most beautiful woman is in 2009 and Angelina Jolie won by a wide margin.  I believe that she fits all of these categories, especially the sexualized presentation of women.

Often, in the media, sexualized women are used for no apparent reason.  In this advertisement that popped up one day while I was working on research for this presentation, there is this woman presenting her legs and high heels…for an advertisement about school grants.

advertisement

Popular media has a freedom to make fun of what pretty isn’t…whether it is fat, short, old, or freckled.  Here Tyra Banks is being called fat.  She is a role model for young women across America whether we like it or not.  If people are associating fat with her and calling her ugly and disgusting, what does that do to our young women that admire her?

tyra

And now a personal story…

colincaseyThis is my my child Colin and his cousin Casey, my niece.  These two kids both consider themselves fat at this time.  Colin was afraid to wear “skinny jeans” because he thinks they make him look fat so he hides his body behind baggy basketball shorts and sweatshirts. Casey is in the same boat. They already don’t like their bodies.

Even models are not thin enough.  Ralph Lauren ran this ad with this image in Japan.  They then fired Filippa Hamilton for “breach of contract” which she says is because she was too big.

filippa

Here, Dove bravely shows us the evolution of beauty:

Here is the list of the Maxim Hot 100.  Women and girls measure themselves against this list and this standard of beauty thinking it will bring

  • Happiness
  • Fulfillment
  • Joy
  • Wealth
  • Desire
  • And Self Worth

maxim

 

This is death dealing to our young women.

  • Teenagers who THINK they are overweight are at a higher risk of suicide.
  • Over 35 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder of some kind…anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.  A huge percentage of these people are women.  Up 95% of the people with anorexia or bulimia are women and 65% of people with a binge eating disorder are women.  Or girls.
  • Eating disorders cause early onset of disease and illness.
  • This is being driven down to an earlier age…over 80% of 10 year olds fear being fat.
  • Again, this is death dealing.  Young women are dying from eating disorders.

Just to contrast,  Measuring against this standard of beauty actually brings

  • Depression
  • Sexual Disorder
  • Self Hatred
  • Self Mutilation
  • Eating Disorders
  • And Suicide

Popular music is no better. Here is an offensive song by the Macc Lads called “Ugly Women.” The lyrics include:

Thank God for ugly women, all the boilers bags and trolls, Just so they could get a shag they invented alcohol.

Speaking of self-mutilation and to that which Kathy Makkai spoke of so poignantly in her poem, nearly 1.2 cosmetic surgeries done for non-medical reasons were done in 2008.

plasticsurg

Ridiculously, this is now being marketed in children’s books. There is a book called, “My Beautiful Mommy” available on amazon.

But there is good news! Our young women are changing and the world is moving into a place where we can consider our bodies and body image, sacred space.

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

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

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

And we become a befuddled mess. My hope and prayer is that you will hear the prophetic words of Kathy Makkai and the Girl’s Making Media and declare your body and your body image sacred space.

Can I get an Amen?

References are here.

terrisignoffblog

 

Posted in Photography/Photographer, Poems/Poetry, Terri Stewart

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

Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

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.

 

Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

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.
Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in the Doorway

Often, in religion-land, we talk (I talk) about being created in the image of God. Imago Dei. I usually think about this in terms of other people. I look and I see a beautiful youth, a reflection of the divine, and know that they are loved and are love.

But what about looking at myself?

Monday, I was at the IRS. Ugh. I have had my identity stolen. I needed to prove to the IRS I was who I said I was so that they would let H&R Block file my taxes. The proving part was easy, and a criminal case has been opened. What was hard was the waiting. And the human hubris.

Sunday, I was at Lake Washington UMC, presiding and preaching. It was a blast and I tackled a difficult subject–radical nonviolence. Especially, the nonviolence that begins with myself–interior nonviolence. I was greatly moved when a woman talked to me afterwards about now hearing the internal put-downs as doing violence to herself. “Awesome!” I thought. And I was really feeling it–this tug towards nonviolent action that starts with yourself.

Monday, waiting in line at the IRS, there were 40 people jammed into a little office and 40 people waiting in the hallway of the office building the IRS rents space in. Then the vacuum lady came. She said, “Everybody get out of the hallway now! Get inside!

Confusion amongst the people.

“Get inside or go downstairs!”

She just wanted to vacuum and the company rules are that no vacuuming can occur unless there are zero people in the hallway. Some liability issue with the cord and people tripping. :-/

I looked at the amount of people jammed into the office and thought, “There is no way. This is unsafe, someone will get hurt.” And I thought of going downstairs and losing my place in line, and I thought, “There is no way I am losing my place in line.” And there may have been curse words interspersed in there.

I said, “It is unsafe, capacity in this office is exceeded.” I then stood on the edge of the doorway between the office and the hallway. I now view that doorway as a liminal space–a sacred space of potentiality.

She said, “I will shut the doors to the office.”

I thought, “Bring it!

How quickly I devolved from nonviolence to violence in my thinking and communication. At least my internal communication. I didn’t say anything to her, but I am sure that my stance and eyes communicated all that needed to be said. Which was, “Call the cops on me–I don’t care.” Yep. I was willing to risk arrest so that I would not lose my place in line at the IRS. That may or may not be bordering on the ridiculous.

The upshot is, where do we see the divine? Is it in perfected behavior? In the “love” and “patience” and “serenity?” Or can we see it in the “anger” and “frustration?” Because if we are honestly made in the image of the Divine, then those must be qualities that come from God!

Anyway, after the vacuum-lady left, the IRS called a bunch of numbers and we were all confused as to who they were because nobody came when the numbers were called (some people actually did go downstairs). Until one number was called and we all knew who it was–a family with little kids. And we knew that they had gone downstairs. People spoke up. They were willing to extend their wait in line to see that the injustice of losing their place in line was righted. The staff went downstairs and got the family, taking more of their time when they had a bunch more people impatiently waiting. This family was cared for.

Maybe that is where we see the best of the imago dei. The willingness to extend our own discomfort to ensure that justice is done.

“The Lonely Vacuum of Space ”This Sucks” by JD Hancock CC BY 2.0 at Flickr.com
The Lonely Vacuum of Space
”This Sucks”
by JD Hancock
CC BY 2.0 at Flickr.com

Post by Terri Stewart (c) 2014, originally posted at www.BeguineAgain.com

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

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

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.
Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Opposition

I have been at a conference all week where we have been discussing how to organize ourselves to create social change. One of the most fun exercises what a Bible study linking the Book of Esther from Hebrew scripture with organizing for social change.

In the story of Esther, there is no mention of the Divine Name or any prayers offered, instead, it is a primer for racism and overcoming broken political systems.

Plot summary:

King Ahasuerus wants his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and show off her beauty to a bunch of drunk men (including the King). She says, “No.” She is then banished because she is a bad example for all women and all women must “know their place.”

Then the King is on a hunt for another wife. Mordecai pimps out Esther and Esther is brought into the royal harem. Why? She is beautiful, but primarily because she found favor with the eunuchs and maid servants. And they taught her how to find favor with the king.

Haman, one of the king’s guys, gets all pissy about Mordecai not bowing to him and asks to write a law that would destroy the Jews. The King is then able to rubber stamp the law (he gives away his ring) while never getting his own hands dirty.

When the new law passes, the Jews and Mordecai where sack cloth and mourn. Esther hears about the situation from the Eunuchs and encourages Mordecai to wear normal clothing. Mordecai then has the Eunuchs relay to her the situation (she was definitely isolated).

Esther convinces the King that this is a bad situation and the injustice that would have wiped out the Jews is fixed.

Yay! Injustice is fixed!

So, we all face injustice in our context. It may be threats to peace, the justice system, economics, poverty, etc. But we all face it! And some are actively working to correct injustice–creating sacred, healing, wholly, holy, space. In organizing ourselves, the question becomes, can we name:

  • Who are the Kings?
  • Who is the Queen who will lay down their power in order to maintain a just world?
  • Who are the Mordecais? Those who would be persecuted?
  • Who are the Esthers? The ones who know the King and can be educated as to a new way of living justly?
  • And who are the maids and Eunuchs? The ones who are also persecuted and underprivileged? Who may have sympathy for the justice issue?

What is wonderful about this is that it allows us to think creatively rather than to think that those with power are the only ones who can cause change. In this story, everyone becomes a change agent! Change for a more just world is another way of creating sacred space.

So mote it be!

And now for some inspiration from slam poetry, “Addressing Food Inequality.”

Post, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

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

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

 

 

Posted in Essay, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space Wherever You Can Name It

A while ago, I was volunteering as a Spiritual Director with incarcerated women. As it so happens, working with the incarcerated us not always straight forward. Some of the things that impact the incarcerated are less education, unstable family systems, increased drug & alcohol use, and untreated mental illness.

One woman I worked with came to me for Spiritual Direction, but she was schizophrenic. The things we worked at were finding a concrete symbol of something that she could name as Love but that did not have her “hearing voices” or “listening for divine within” or anything at all like that! After all, coming from a time in life when she actively did hear voices, that was not something she trusted!

We hit upon the image of her teddy bear. That teddy bear encapsulated pure love for her. It was concrete and it helped her feel loved. That symbolized the spot where she could find sacred space.

What about you? Is there something ordinary that represents sacred space? A teddy bear? Book? Chair? What provides sacred, healing space that nobody else would suspect?

For me, that sacred space is often represented in words. Maybe my computer holds the sacred space. It is a window to a world of great wisdom and the receiver of my angst and wonderings as I process feelings through writing. Hmmm.

for an incarcerated mentally ill client

ghost town

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

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

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

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

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

so small and still or
so big and booming

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

by "miracle design" at flickr.com CC (BY-ND)
by “miracle design”
at flickr.com
CC (BY-ND)

Post, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

Poem, Terri Stewart (c) 2010

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.
Posted in First Peoples, Joseph Hesch, poem, poetry, trees

Beyond the Pines

Once, a squirrel could travel from here
to the place the Kanienkehaka called
Beyond the Pines and never
touch the ground, not leave a track
for the People of the Flint to follow
like they stalked the white-tail deer.
From the River Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk
to Schau-naugh-ta-da the trace ran,
where I follow these tracks each day.

I see where the geese have penned
their cuneiform tales in the pond-side mud,
edited by the turtles’ tail-writ script.
I read the tracks of the students
on the running trail–the one
that runs for a time toward
that western place–like I’m one
with my Mohawk brothers,
trailing Englishmen from the Hudson’s shore
to where they’ll hew more and more pines
and tear down more of this
Haudenosaunee world.

Do their heels weigh heavier
in the dirt than their toes? Walking.
How deep? Carrying books.
Are their toes dug in, tossing behind
a spray of the history of their passing? Running.
Narrow feet? Girl. A pair side by side?
Someone stood to watch soccer practice.
Four feet, two narrow, two wide?
Perhaps a longer story than this moment.

Two squirrels cross my trail,
skittering across the ground
into their place there
behind that one lonely pine. I stopped
to parse their tiny prints, and
wonder about who will pause one day
to ponder all this jumble of tracks
I leave.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph (below), Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Posted in Essay, Poems/Poetry, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Music and the Next Generation (Cue Star Trek Theme Song)

I am bringing a piece that I wrote some time ago about music and children and words. It relates to the post from last week inspired by Dr. Cornell West and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. That focused on the pietic, the poetic, and the prophetic. This, inspired by my children, ties the three together for me.

I can almost hear everyone asking, “What do you mean?” Well, let me tell you! The pietic are those personal practices that bring greater spiritual freedom and spaciousness – music, prayer, walking – whatever floats your boat! Poetic is the words and the music that describe that inner spaciousness (quite literally what is below). And last, the prophetic, an outward movement of the inner spaciousness to bring greater freedom to the world. Here, quite literally, it is in my children as they are moving outward now bringing an inner spaciousness outward. This is what we do here.

In addition to the poem below, inspired by listening to my children get musical, I’ve linked in a Youtube recording from my son today. He was in the National Academy of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition in Seattle today and placed second. He inspires me and in him and his friends, I see a generation coming of young people that continue to strive to bring an expansiveness to the cosmos that we have not felt or seen yet.

OK…the video is not necessary, but being the proud mama of this chick I have inflicted out into the world, I wanted to share! Thanks for your indulgence!

Love

by Terri Stewart, April 19, 2011
there is something

about that note
and the melody that
languidly curls in the air
a feathered piece of straw
catching your ear held
by the hands of mozart
and elvis and even
p.d.q. teasing
driftly softly down
blown by the soft
breeze of progeny
cascading joy rising up
like incense
holding the gift of
past, present, and future
the slightest brush of an
angel’s wing carrying
the melody onward

Terri 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 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 “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.