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2020 Words of the Year–Carry On!

Carry On!

The inspiration for my 2020 Word(s) of the Year came from the Sprigs of Rosemary Advent retreat that I recently led. The retreat was centered around the theme of sanctuary, inspired by the lyrics of Sanctuary written by Carrie Newcomer.

There were several questions participants were asked to consider as a guide for them during the retreat. “What do I need sanctuary from?” touched my heart.

I shared that I need sanctuary from the endless flood of thoughts that preoccupy my mind; thoughts that hold me back and keep me from being truly free. I need sanctuary from the constant rerun of conversations and/or situations that have led to hurt feelings and a sense of rejection. I need sanctuary from the relentless inner conversations that distract me from living fully and hold me a prisoner in the role of victim.

When I have strong feelings or attachments, compulsive mental role-playing commences. I replay conversations—what was said, what I could have or should have said, what he/she meant, and on and on. Once I can slow down my thoughts, create some space, and breathe, I can hear more clearly what God intends for me to know.

Being clear about what I need to detach from—my thoughts—was the creative fuel I needed to intuitively make my first card named “Sanctuary.”

“Our logical thinking mind cannot leap out of the loop, but our intuitive mind can step back and watch….the logical mind usually misses the symbolic voice heard by the intuitive senses.” Discernment Matters, Mary Margaret Funk, OSB

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Sanctuary Card–the first card of my reading.

A culminating activity of the retreat was a SoulCollage® reading. Reflecting on, praying with, or “reading” your cards is a process that never fails—if you have questions, God provides answers that are tailor-made using the images that have spoken uniquely to you. We begin by selecting one card we made during the retreat and randomly selecting two other Soulcollage® cards from our personal collection, cards made months or years earlier, taking turns with questions and reflections.

The question for my cards, interestingly evolved while I was saying it out loud—”How can I find sanctuary from my thoughts? … Actually, how can I move on from them, how can I carry on?” Continue reading “2020 Words of the Year–Carry On!”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Closing Session)

This session closes our Advent retreat, Sprigs of Rosemary—a retreat that can be adapted to any schedule and, certainly, can be used any time of the year. This final post recognizes that YOU are a temple of God, a home for God in the world, the ultimate sanctuary for the Divine.nativity

Advent leads us from the darkness of the womb to the light of Christ at Christmas. As we journey through the weeks, we circle the Advent wreath lighting a new candle each week—a reminder that our waiting ends, that Christ will come. But it can also set our intention to be a dwelling place for God, to remind ourselves that Christ is incarnated in us. “Sanctuary” by Maranatha Music is a prayerful reminder:

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Closing Session)”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 5)

Welcome to Session 5—Using Your Cards Creatively

soul pictureCreating SoulCollage® cards has been the focus of the Sprigs of Rosemary retreat sessions so far, but there are many ways to go deeper with creating, journaling, praying with or reading your cards. In the ancient prayerful practice of Lectio or Visio Divina, Latin for “divine seeing”, we allow words and images to speak into our hearts. This prayer, recommended by St. Benedict, embraces the universal roles, the archetypes, of Inner Monk and Inner Artist, instead of the worldly roles that we know we can never be fully satisfied with. Planted deep within us are these archetypes that fuel our desire for solitude and prayer, creativity and expression.

What is special about SoulCollage creativity is that it is time spent listening to the images, drawing on our intuition, creating and then listening to what our own creations are saying to us. We are co-creating with the Divine. Holding an image in prayer is powerful. It is not just a craft project. Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 5)”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 4)

Welcome to Session 4—Friendship as Sanctuary.

It is so important to cultivate sacred friendships, to make space for people to experience giving and receiving the unconditional love that God extends to us.

Soul friends, or anam caras, can bring us joy, humor, understanding, compassionate listening, comfort, or consolation—and the intuition to know what we need sanctuary from. For nearly 17 years, I have met with a circle of friends to read and discuss spiritual books. We have gone through several iterations as members have, sadly, passed away, moved away or moved on, but we provide sanctuary for each other that I am grateful I can count on. 

 Consider the story of the Visitation. 

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  —Luke 1:39–40 Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 4)”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 3)

Welcome to Session 3—Silence as Sanctuary

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There are many ways to find refuge in our daily lives if we choose to remember. Too often, we can get sucked into the vortex of expectations and things to do accompanied by a flurry of activities and thoughts, that we forget to ask for help when we need it. Refuge, sanctuary, will not come looking for us.  Consider the first lines of Sanctuary.

Will you be my refuge
My haven in the storm,
Will you keep the embers warm
When my fire’s all but gone?

The lyrics are posed as a question. To ask for help requires self-awareness and humility. We must remember to ask for sanctuary.

You can rest here in Brown Chapel,
Or with a circle of friends,
A quiet grove of trees
Or between two bookends.

Carrie Newcomer, Sanctuary

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There is no one right way to seek or find sanctuary. Sometimes sanctuary is a place. Sometimes we need to be with loved ones, our circle of friends. Sometimes spending time in nature or reading a good book. Sometimes we find sanctuary through an act of creativity, like collage or journaling or in an activity where one loses all sense of time. And sometimes we just need silence.

We need silence to hear our own thoughts. It is in silence that we recognize thin places.

 

move slowly

To enter into silence for this session, listen to “Move Slowly”, a meditation narrated by James Finley, set to the music of Alana Levandoski from the album “Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path.” Follow the link below for “Move Slowly” (it may be on the right side under Top Tracks), or you can download it at Alana’s website. Follow along with lyrics below. Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 3)”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 2)

In Session 1, we contemplated the lyrics of Sanctuary, written by Carrie Newcomer, and explored the power of images to tap into our intuition through collage. Expressing one’s creativity allows time and space for new ideas to bubble up, for questions to surface, and for meaning to take hold.

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“Images attract the attention of the right side of our brains, and when there are only images, this intuitive side stays in charge and will go deeper into the uncharted territory of the psyche. It is this side of our brain that can see the whole picture at once and surprise us with wise answers that seem to come from some deeper place.” Seena Frost, SoulCollage Evolving

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My Sanctuary Card

Contemplative Session 2: Sanctuary in Thin Places

The Caim
Symbols, as with images, can represent something beyond a surface level of understanding, pointing to the abstract. Symbols can become an important part of rituals, helping cement an idea or intention and give energy to creativity and prayer.

While researching sanctuary as a theme for this retreat, I discovered two symbols that illuminated the notion of creating sanctuary. The first is the Celtic Christian symbol, caim.  A caim can be practiced as a ritual of circling oneself with prayerful protection in dark times. There is a power in a symbol that embraces its meaning and yet goes beyond—it can be a reminder of being loved and safe during times when one feels uncertainty.

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“The “caim” involves simply drawing a circle around yourself or another person physically or in your imagination. This encircling prayer is grounded in our awareness of the constant companionship and protection of the divine. It reminds us that God is in this place. Often, as they embarked on journeys or felt at risk, Celtic pilgrims would inscribe a circle around themselves as a reminder of God’s ever-present companionship and protection.

Practicing the encircling prayer is simple. Pause and then take a moment to draw a holy circle around yourself or, imaginatively, around a loved one. Use your index finger as a way of inscribing the circle around you. As you draw the protective circle, you may use a traditional or contemporary prayer of encircling. You may also choose to write and read your own personal prayer for yourself or another. But, in any case, the power of a spiritual tradition often finds its most lively expression when we embody it from our deepest spirit and in the language of our own hearts.” Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 2)”

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 1)

Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat

Over the next several days, I will share excerpts from a recent Advent retreat I was honored to lead. Ten women joined me on a journey to explore the significance of seeking, being and finding sanctuary.

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The inspiration for the retreat came from the lyrics of this song, Sanctuary by Carrie Newcomer.

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Sanctuary was written by Carrie Newcomer after a conversation with her friend Parker J. Palmer.  She asked him, “What can we do when we are personally or politically heartbroken?” He responded that we take sanctuary. We gather with those we love.  We remember, we share stories or we sit in silence until we can go on. There is time for positive action, to do what needs to be done, but there are also times when we rest in the arms of what most sustains us.

The retreat, Sprigs of Rosemary, was an opportunity to creatively and prayerfully ponder what sustains us—a special time to gather with kindred spirits and create our own sanctuary. Consider asking a circle of friends to join you for this online contemplative retreat…or if that doesn’t work, simply carve out time for yourself, a little each day, to practice Lectio Divina with song lyrics, poetry or scripture and to express yourself creatively through SoulCollage®.

Contemplative Session 1: Listen to Sanctuary by Carrie Newcomer.

Practice Lectio Divina with the lyrics of this song. What words or phrases speak to your heart? Do any of these words or phrases resonate with you?

Refuge (safe, rest, quiet)   —   Haven in the storm   —   Fire (all but gone, embers warm) —   Sprigs of Rosemary (remember)   —   Sanctuary   —   Carry on   —   Knees (ground, dropped me)   —   Us and them —   Circle of friends

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Consider what SANCTUARY means to you.

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What do you think is the significance of SPRIGS OF ROSEMARY? Consider some of the historical uses of rosemary. Continue reading “Sprigs of Rosemary—A SoulFully You Online Advent Retreat (Session 1)”

Gratitude for Teaching: A Mirror to the Soul

My friend Evi Wusk asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Gratitude Gal, about what I am grateful for as a teacher. The reflection that resulted has been a game-changer for me. It’s been a busy and challenging school year, but digging deeper about why I continue to choose to be an educator has uplifted my attitude and helped me deal with the daily challenges of teaching.

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Here is what I wrote:

“Gratitude at its deepest level embraces all of life with thanksgiving: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not so holy… I am gradually learning that the call to gratitude asks us to say, ‘Everything is grace. “–Henri Nouwen

I am grateful to have had two grown-up careers—five years in advertising sales and the past 23 years as a Business educator. It is teaching that has taught me about the importance of practicing gratitude.

I am grateful to see teaching as a vocation, not just a paycheck. When I made my career change, it was certainly not for the money. I have never looked at teaching as just a job; it is a spiritual calling. Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach writes, “I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.”

I am grateful that I have stayed in education even when it can be soooo hard. Several years ago, I tried to capture the essence of the evolving nature of teaching through SoulCollage®. When I started my first teaching job, I was incredibly naïve and idealistic about what it would be like, represented by the black and white, “country school” image —students with smiles on their faces, eagerly waiting to learn, happy, compliant, respectful, and totally mesmerized by every word I said. The reality is that teaching is a much more “colorful” role than I had expected or could have imagined.

SoulFul Teaching

I am grateful that teaching has shown me how diverse my community is and has given me the opportunity to grow in understanding and compassion. My students are more economically and racially diverse than earlier in my career. Students have more challenges than they did when I first started teaching—m­ore personal and family traumas, mental illness, learning disabilities, poverty and more. Teaching has become much more than delivering curriculum, it is about connecting to the personal experiences of each student. Committed to learning about the impact of poverty, racism, and traumatic experiences in my students lives has been both eye-opening and heartbreaking. Recognizing blind spots and facing my own privilege has challenged me to the growing edge. I want my students to succeed, to become their best self, to reach their fullest potential. I grieve when I see that a student who comes from an environment that does not encourage or support that.

I am grateful for the creativity and spontaneity that I can bring to my lessons.  Perhaps the most exciting part of teaching is surrendering to the sweet surprises that can occur during a school day. My lesson plans give the day structure and order, but being flexible and willing to let go of plans to respond to unique situations, questions or spontaneous discussions, is sometimes messier, but much more “colorful” and always well worth it.

I am grateful for students who love learning and for those “light bulb” moments that can happen in the learning process. I am grateful for teaching a subject that I have never lost my passion for. The joy that comes when a student learns something new about business or about themselves is the best reward for teaching classes that can be relevant to students now and in their future.

I am grateful for the opportunity to begin again. I am grateful that I can keep learning. I am grateful for the educators I work with who also have a commitment to growth and learning. Two of my favorite things about teaching are discovering new ways to share the love of learning with students and the chance to start the next semester with a clean slate. Fresh ideas, new teaching strategies, another opportunity to grow, learn and improve—and hoping a little of that rubs off on my students—are the greatest gifts of being a teacher.

I am grateful that I can accept my own imperfections (most of the time…I’m still practicing). I think I’m still learning that I will never get it just right. I will never be perfect. But I love that I can be creative each day, trying new things, forgiving myself for what doesn’t work and starting over again the next day, week or semester.

I am grateful I have had the courage to stay put and grow in my profession. It is the Benedictine promise of stability that has given me the courage to stay in teaching, to learn the valuable lessons that can only be learned slowly and over time. My commitment to teaching is a little like my marriage. It takes work. I give. I get. It is hard. I want to quit. I recommit. There are days, weeks, months, sometimes years, that don’t seem very rewarding. But there are moments that are so affirming; it is then that the reward is revealed. It is only over time that the fruits of the labor can be truly appreciated. 

I am grateful for the memories of deep connections with students. I was with students the day the World Trade Center towers came down and when I went to the 9/11 memorial. I’ve journeyed with students when they’ve made big mistakes and major accomplishments. I am grateful for the students who have stayed in touch through the years, celebrating their careers, marriages, and new babies.

I am grateful for my business teacher colleagues who care about students and believe in what we teach. I love the solitude and community we have—we respect each other’s individuality but also work well as a department and professional learning community.

I am grateful that teaching reveals more about who I am, giving me plenty of material for reflection and growth. “Teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.” –Parker Palmer

I am grateful for the good and the bad days. Not every day, nor for every student, do I feel grateful. But gratefulness is a feeling; gratitude is a practice. It is a grace to embrace it all.

“Teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the hearts—and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be… If a work is mine to do, it will make me glad over the long haul, despite the difficult days.”—Parker Palmer

More posts about teaching at BeingBenedictine, HERE.

More posts about teaching at SoulFullyYou, my other blog HERE.

Quantum Entanglement, The Invisible Tug and The Temple of God

Things happen in threes, they say.

Just in the last few days, I have been impacted by three distinct impressions—a reflection written by Richard Rohr, a poem penned by Emily Bass and a Lectio Divina reading and discussion at our monthly Oblate meeting.

All three Things point to the divine, invisible, and yet very tangible, connection that exists between us.

tree in the road

Thing One—a friend forwarded an email from the Center for Action and Contemplation by Richard Rohr about “quantum entanglement.” He describes quantum entanglement as “a wonderful illustration of the interconnected nature of reality, both spiritual and material. In quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair ‘knows’ what is happening to another paired particle.”

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Deeply-felt intuition and synchronicities that occur in our lives may be explained as a mere coincidence by some or the work of angels, saints or Divine assistance by others, but Christianity embraces the idea that quantum entanglement, despite the vocabulary used, is a spiritual phenomenon that very much exists. But what does this mean for us as we live out our daily lives?

Rohr writes, “We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace—first of all in our minds and hearts. This is conscious quantum entanglement.” We make a difference in this world—who we are and how we behave impacts others.

Thing TwoParker Palmer, one of my favorite writers, shared a poem by Emily Bass on social media followed by the comment, “What if you felt the invisible tug between you and everything”? (Sounds a little like quantum entanglement…)

 

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The World Has Need of You

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.

Parker writes, “Hard as it may be to believe, our little lives and actions make a difference. There are more than enough people of good will among us to resist the power-hungry, wealth-obsessed, anti-democratic forces that threaten us. If enough of us do what we can—bit by bit, day by day—we can tilt the earth toward sanity and humanity.”

Thing Three—at our November Oblate meeting we read 1 Corinthians 3: 9-11, 16-17 for our Lectio Divina practice.

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Phrases that resonated with our group:

You are God’s building—another is building upon it—be careful how he builds—you are the temple of God—dwells in you—you are….holy.

Reflections shared in discussion:

We are the temple of God. Despite our sense of worthiness or participation in good actions, we are the dwelling place for the Spirit of God. We are holy.

This foundation is firm, but we must be full of care in how it is built upon. We must be careful how we build upon another’s temple or let others build on ours. We must protect ourselves, our temple, with what builds us up. We must be careful what we send into the universe that it builds up rather than tears down.

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We are entangled; we feel the invisible tug of the other; and, yes, we are connected to each other, can make a difference and have an impact. I work with God on the building of the temple. We are co-builders with Christ.

The temple may be destroyed but will rise again. It happened with Christ, it happens over and again throughout history, and it will in our own life.

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The temple is WHO I AM. I need the One who can rebuild. It is through Christ living in me that I am able to build myself again and to build others up. Nothing can destroy our temple, a blessing freely given from God.

Yes, I think things happen in threes—at least this week they did.

Quantum Entanglement, The Invisible Tug and The Temple of God. Words of wisdom may come from a variety of traditions or sources but point to one Truth.

Be careful builders. Be intentional. Be peace. Amen.

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