Viriditas

I’ve been without internet for awhile
so
for this post
I’m a few days back in time –
June 8th

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I was away from home this week.
When I returned and left the highway to drive up Hilly Lake Road
I exclaimed out loud
“wow…everything is so green!”

Viriditas

If you know Hildegard of Bingen you will know
this word
but if she and it are unfamiliar
then let me introduce you.

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This is an artist’s image of Hildegard.
Notice that she is wearing a green robe and standing barefoot
on grass and amongst trees.

Hildegard lived in Bingen near modern day Frankfurt
in the 12th century (1098-1179).
Hildegard was a very amazing woman, a visionary woman
and one of only four women named ‘Doctor’ within the Catholic Church.
She was also named ‘Saint’.
Hildegard was a spiritual director,
a poet, a musician, a botanist, a healer,
an artist, a composer, an advisor to the Pope,
and a theologian
who had
Viriditas
at the heart of her worldview.

Hildegard used the word
Viriditas
to speak of ‘the greening power of God’
which she felt to be
the life force
within all of creation.

Hildegard saw
Viriditas
in the world around her
and in the world within her.
She saw
Viriditas
in the renewing power of nature
and in the vibrancy of her own soul.

Hildegard looked out on the Rhineland and saw
the greening of nature
just as you and I are looking out and into June and seeing
the greening of our world following a long winter.

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Viriditas
is also something to be noticed
within.
It is the shimmering sign of our aliveness, and
our connected-participation with
Life Force.

So when I pulled onto Hilly Lake Road I saw
juicy and fecund veriditas
(Hildegard’s favourite adjectives)
in the explosion of June’s new growth…
the lush trees and the sprouting plants in my yard.

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Hildegard calls us to see these things in our world and
she calls us to become aware of our own
budding and
growing and
blossoming and
greening.
She asks us to become aware of
the divine unfolding and
the lush possibility
rising up and opening up
within
us.

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I have been spending time with my little grand-daughter
who likes grass
and so we sat together on the
green
and this felt good.

As I sat there I saw and felt
Viriditas
all around me
and
I closed my eyes
and considered
Viriditas
within me.

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A Spiritual Practice for this season of
Viriditas:

go outside, take off your shoes…feel the grass under your feet
or
stand / sit amongst the trees

look around and see the many hues of
green

breathe in nature’s
Viriditas.

Now
close your eyes and ponder:

where is Viriditas within me?
what is growing / sprouting / budding within?

sense the connection between
earth’s Viriditas
and
your personal inner Viriditas.

Offer thanks for the places of
tender greening
around
and
within.

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Grateful … the difference made by a preposition

I have recently finished reading
Grateful
a new release book by Diana Butler Bass
and I have been pondering what I read …
the sign of an engaging book.

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There are several concepts in this book
that I have heard before but also
some compelling new insights.

Diana Butler Bass speaks of ‘me’ and ‘we’ gratitude
extending the personal practice of being
grateful
into the community, into the political, into
a grateful society.
It takes reading this book to develop this concept
( hint hint – see Resources )
so I’ll just whet your curiosity with this idea
but
a transformative comment
that I can share in this small writing space involves
two prepositions
and the difference they make.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said:
(amongst many other things but this gets quoted)
“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything”
and I’m guessing that most of us will agree with Diana
in thinking that it is well-nigh impossible to give thanks for everything.

There are great sufferings in our world:
refugee camps and city slums
neglected children and abused elders
ill friends, worried parents, grieving spouses
days of confusion and nights of fear
and
whether experiencing these myself or just being aware of them
I cannot give thanks for these things.

So Diana points out that this phrase which seems to have become
internalized
is a Biblical mis-quote.
Earlier wisdom says:
‘In everything give thanks’.
(1 Thess 5:18)

In
my day
whatever it may hold
give thanks.

In
my day of
lovely moments
and
in
my day of
sad and lonely moments
give thanks.

In my day and in my life
give thanks.

Not
for
but
in.

Does this preposition distinction spark a changed understanding for you?
It does for me.

The Biblical Greek word en translated as
in – with – within – throughout
“locates us here and now, in the past, and in the future;
in happiness, in despair;
in all things, in all times, in all situations”.
Gratefulness locates
“the gifts and grace that accompany our way”. (DBB)
I know that I can easily think of something I’m grateful for
when feeling buoyed up by my life circumstances, yet
I also know that when I am down and discouraged
considering gratefulness isn’t one of my top ten thoughts.
Diana Butler Bass affirms gratefulness research to say that
being grateful
in
within
throughout
the difficult
is an act of
resistance.
It is also an act of
resilience and renewal.

I can choose gratefulness each and every day
no matter what each day may bring
and this choice that I can make
resists my falling into despair and negativity
and
reminds me of
the gift of life.

The Buddha said:

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In reading this book I have realized that I am not as conscious of
gratefulness
as I would wish to be
and so I’m choosing to change this
through ways and practices yet to be actualized.

I have known about but not attended well to the work of
Brother David Steindl-Rast
http://www.gratefulness.org
and so this is a good place to start.

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I encourage you to read him and also to hear him.
Search YouTube for “A Good Day”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zl9puhwiyw

and you might also want to read
Grateful by Diana Butler Bass.

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grateful

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a community called Prairie Jubilee

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I am home from my residency week of instructing with
Prairie Jubilee.
Last blog showed you our setting at The Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, and now
I’d like to introduce this program to you.

But first…
when reading about Spirituality
practice – sustaining – integrating
you will encounter the word
community.

Here’s a quote from
Living Deeply:
the Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life
(see Resources)
“When we asked our teachers how to integrate
transformative realizations
into everyday life…
the most common response we received was
to connect with a like-minded
community.
In fact, many teachers said that finding a like-minded
community
with whom you can share your transformative process is essential.”

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Prairie Jubilee is a
community
formed by people who sense a longing
-to deepen their understanding of themselves
-to explore/learn spiritual practices
-to feel connection to the Divine, and
-to listen for the movement of Spirit.

Although diverse in terms of employment, education, culture, and
religious or no-religious formation
it is this
longing
that has created this like-minded
community.

The Prairie Jubilee community is
contemplative
spacious
evocative
embodied
transformative.
It offers skill development for
self-knowing
deep listening
and
spiritual direction.

This past week was the last residency of Cycle 8.
Although participants still have some assignments to complete
we celebrated this ending and new beginning.
The photos you are seeing are from a ‘thank-you’ book
made by the participants where each page reflected some quality of
our time spent together in
this unique community.

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I wonder…
are you part of a community that offers support
for your personal growth and spiritual deepening?

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Community takes many forms and may be embodied in realtime
or found within a virtual community.
I have been most fortunate to have had two significant communities
which have challenged me to grow and
supported me in my evolving.

The first has been my church.

Churches vary and so do Synagogues, Mosques, and Circles.
For me, a ‘good’ church includes
-meaningful interpretation of Ancient Story
-liturgy and ritual that opens to Mystery, and
-a gathering of people who are able to both love and challenge.

The second has been Prairie Jubilee which adds to the above
a more intentional and intense
opportunity for personal-spiritual development.

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We are not a large group when we meet for residency
perhaps eleven to twenty
but with each Cycle
the Prairie Jubilee Community grows.

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If you are interested in learning more about
Prairie Jubilee

or being part of Cycle 9
visit http://www.prairiejubilee.ca

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I – am – here

I have often used a short ‘body-movement-prayer’ as a
centering
when beginning a group contemplative teaching.

It’s rather hard to describe this on paper, but I’ll try.
If you have been with me for this
it will easily come back to you.

Sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight
and your feet on the ground.
Feel supported.  
Breathe.

First, practice the hand movements:
1)  place your hands on your knees, gaze down
2)  cup your hands in open-prayer position in front of your heart, gaze forward
3) extend your gaze upwards and raise your arms over your head in praise-position
4) bring your hands down to cross over your chest with
right fingers touching your left shoulder and
left fingers touching your right shoulder, gaze forward
1) return hands to your knees
then 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1 …

Now, practice the words.  Say them slowly out loud.
I
am
here

The ‘practice’ is to say these words with the hand movements:
-position 1 … starting position
-position 2 … say “I”
-position 3 … say “am”
-position 4 … say “here”
-position 1 … say “I ”
-position 2 … say “am”
-position 3 … say “here”
-position 4 … “I”
-position 5 … “am”
-position 1 … “here”
continue slowly

It’s not quite as easy as it seems is it 🙂
This body-movement-prayer requires
attention
and
focus.

When repeated for several minutes
this body-movement-prayer
brings one into the present moment
to be
where we are and
no where else.

I
am
here.

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I am here
at The Sandy Sauteaux Spiritual Centre
near Beausejour, Manitoba.
We are mid-way through our residency week for
Prairie Jubilee.

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I am here
walking on this sacred land alongside
The Brokenhead River.

I am here
for a week of
spiritual practices
teachings and
contemplative community.

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I am here
in a week set apart
from my ordinary life
which, even in my retirement
contains a lot of busy-ness and distraction.

I am here
to remember
to be here
present and 
attentive
to
life.

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A time of retreat opens the way for
living in the present to happen
but
I/we must return to our routine life
where
the practice of attention is most needed.

This body-movement-prayer
is a good daily practice.
The words
I – am – here
are words that call us
to
be
present
in wherever
‘here’
   may be…

attentive to THIS unique and fleeting moment
of life.

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am

here

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“Music resonates the Soul”

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My community has a Festival of the Arts every April
and I have just attended two days of vocal classes.
If you have ever been to an adjudicated Festival you will know
that after each selection
there is a significant pause
while the Adjudicator writes her/his adjudication.
Knowing this, I took some articles to read.
They were on the topic of
Transformation
since I’m preparing for a morning of teaching at
Prairie Jubilee
http://www.prairiejubilee.ca

My readings and the Adjudicator’s comments
came together in a way that was
unexpected.

The Adjudicator spoke about
mind – body – spirit
and
Soul.
I had not expected the Adjudicator to speak of such things.

One of my transformation articles wrote about
a song.
I had not expected my research to speak of singing.

The Adjudicator spoke to some of the participants
about their eye contact
saying something like
(not a direct quote since I wasn’t taking notes)
Look at us while you sing. I want to see your Soul.

Indeed, I have read the Wisdom that says that
eyes are a doorway into Soul.
I have also read that
Soul loves music.

At one point the adjudicator told us that she had been taught that
‘Music resonates the Soul’.

RESONATES

synonyms are
affect – provoke – awaken – arouse – inspire

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After reading some articles on the psychology and spirituality of
transformation
I read this story told by
Paula D’Arcy
(I have both condensed and quoted)
who described the contemplative hour
she had been asked to offer for
thirty-five female inmates at a jail in her community.
Paula had invited
a pianist and two vocalists to accompany her.

 

These were accomplished musicians
and they had carefully selected a variety of music
from pop to Broadway tunes.

Many selections held a theme of hope and healing
which was what Paula wanted to focus on.

She had one misgiving.

They had also chosen a piece from a French opera.
(The Flower Duet in Lakmé by Léo Delibes)

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Paula worried that this piece would not have an appeal
and that, because it would be sung in French
the meaning would be lost to these women.
She thought she should ask these musicians to change this selection
but she didn’t.

Here’s what happened:

“As the inmates arrived and found seats,
there was a lot of restless energy in the room…
heads turned each time someone new came in,
and there were multiple greetings and a steady hum of whispered conversations.
In addition to that background noise,
there was the ongoing interruption of loudspeaker announcements,
plus the voices of those walking down the corridor past our door.
Guards also walked back and forth inside the room, monitoring the rows.
At some point, I gave up hope that we would be able to create a quiet atmosphere.

Laura and Sarajane welcomed everyone
and began to sing the first notes of “Flower Duet”.
In the same way that Rilke writes
about the darkness being able to pull in everything
“shapes and fires, animals and myself”
(You Darkness)
in exactly that way, the sheer beauty of the singers’ voices
and the magnificence of the opera changed the room.
It became completely still and we were somehow
inside
the song.

The music pulled us into the brevity of a lifetime;
the mistakes we make; our longings for things to be different, to be better;
the despair of being without hope; and the pure and the holy.

When I turned around to look,
I saw that many inmates were overcome by emotion.
Something sublime was moving in that room,
a sound that directly entered our hearts.

I forgot about time and our schedule and
anything else that had seemed important just minutes before.
The jail was taken over by the ascending beauty of the music.
A powerful force moved in that plain and simple classroom,
pressing its way through the life circumstances represented by the women
seated in the rows of metal chairs.
It was as if the enveloping sound was saying to a hidden place in each of us:
something great is alive in you, and
something more than this surface reality is intended for your life.
Beyond your circumstances lies a different destiny.”

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A moment of transformation.

I have witnessed the transformative power and mystery of music myself.
In my thirty-plus years of offering Sunday Church at a Care Home
I have seen sleeping heads and unresponsive eyes
raise and focus
when a hymn from earlier life was
sung.

My mother had a brain trauma which resulted in severe memory loss, yet
when I took her to musical events where her beloved tunes were sung
she became ‘Mom’ again
singing and smiling.

I have had many experiences of sensing
within the sanctuary of congregational worship
a moment
when
song
penetrated
touched
released
held
and
‘spoke’
directly
to the Souls who had gathered.

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Sometimes, in community-life
we take things like
Festival
Choirs
music lessons
for granted
or
as skill development
for those who have gifts.

The nurturing of music in
an individual and in a community
does so much more.

It resonates with

and

therefore

allows

our Souls to sing.

*** * *****

Listen to a piece of music that resonates with your Soul.

Sit … savour … feel the deepness within you.

 

 

A Story to live by

Of all the gifts that people can give to one another,
the most meaningful and long lasting are
strong but simple love
and the gift of story.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Kathy Galloway (The Iona Community)
A Story To Live By

I have been away from home for a couple of weeks
enjoying the green grass and blooming daffodils of the west coast.
I returned to snowfall and cold and also, to the week called
Holy Week
and for me, this Holy Week is different from previous Holy Weeks
because this year I’m not run off my feet.
You see, when I was a Congregational Minister
Holy Week
was full of an overwhelming list of responsibilities
but this year
I’m not overwhelmed with tasks.
This year
I am simply re-reading the story and
pondering.
For me, this Holy Week is quieter…
just me and
the Story.

Since hearing Kathy Galloway of the Iona Community speak at a Conference
I have had her phrase
‘A Story To Live By’
rise up within me from time to time.
I have grown to realize how significant it is for me to have
a Story to live by
a Great Narrative
an Archetypal Story
so that
my story
rests upon
something larger.

The Great Story that I know and live by is the Biblical Story
which is actually
a collection of stories
within the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
Others may live by Oral Aboriginal Story, or
by Story from other Faith Traditions or cultures, but
I live by an overarching multi-booked Story
which tells about

blessing and curse
exile and return
wandering and arrival
rebuilding and visioning
lamenting and celebrating
awe and wonder
despair and hope
injustice and justice
life and death.

I have sometimes heard people say in reference to the Bible
‘It’s just a story’.
JUST
a story
and I hear this as a diminishing comment
implying that story isn’t all that important.
Well, I think that
Story
is very important!
I think that
Story
is essential
in helping us to ‘frame’ our lives.

While away, I spent time with a good and wise friend
and in one of our many conversations over coffee
she said
we all have a story.
Yes … every person has a story.
I have a personal story
you have a personal story
the storekeeper, the street person, the law enforcer,
the one in the care home
we all have a story … a life story
unique and interesting and at times confusing and despairing.

The older I grow the more I realize
how meaningful it has been for me to have
a Story to help me comprehend
all of the above human experiences
so that when these things occur in my life
I will know something about them
and have words and image to express
the exile or lament or awe
that I am living.

During Holy Week
the Story is about
Jesus’ last days with his friends and followers.
If you know this story you know that it’s not an easy-story-week
because
it’s hard to accompany someone through their last days.

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If given the choice, I think that most of us would choose
celebration over lament
joy over despair
companionship over isolation
fidelity over betrayal
knowing over uncertainty
and yet
life
gives us both and all.

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In reading the Holy Week Story,
in watching it depicted in ritual and tableau,
in singing the emotions, and
in sitting in silence to ponder the meaning
we grow in our understanding
of life
and death
and the Great Mystery of Everlasting
and so
Story
helps us to comprehend the depth and mystery of our
humanity.

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If you are a follower of the Christian Way
I wish for you
a Holy Week filled with
life-expanding reflection.

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the wisdom of the aged

In our society, we have shows that select idols:
‘Canadian Idol’ and the various ‘country-name’s got talent’ shows.
These lift up individuals for their amazing gifts and so they
shine in the spotlight
for a time.

I wonder
who are your idols … your heros, the ones you most admire?

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Throughout my ministry, I have been fortunate to know some extraordinary
elderly folk.
They would never ever think of themselves as extraordinary
let alone as anyone’s
idol.
Such is the humility of those I have known
but knowing them
has caused me to
ponder

how is it that some people grow into their advanced age with such
amazing grace?

artistic-portrait-friendly-senior-old-man-1299155296b77ee72750cac48aeef09d85cde4af--centenarian-aging-gracefullyLast weekend I attended a meeting of my Presbytery, the regional division of my church.

I have been gathering with this representation of folk for twenty years
and so
I have developed friendships.
Over the weekend I spent time in conversation with
a senior man
a retired minister
who is likely 85ish.

I have long admired him but this past weekend I really wondered
how it is that some people manage to grow old with such
grace.

This man has experienced all of the ups and downs of life.
He has ministered to the sorrows of many people and
he has had sorrows of his own.

He has taken stock of his life.
A few years ago he made an apology to our Presbytery for his wrong thinking about
LGBT
and he asked forgiveness for the hurtful things he had once said.
We were moved to tears by his honest admissions.
He has also revisioned his theology
updating it for this new era
and
he spoke to us about ‘way back when’ he thought that being a minister was to
save souls for heaven
and then a crisis of faith happened when he realized that there was
so much more to Christian Faith
and to
‘thy will be done ON EARTH’.

This man has asked for forgiveness; he has re-thought his beliefs;
he has been transformed into a new way of living
and this weekend
he spoke of
hope.

He is reading the most recent release theological books and he is
inspired
and therefore
inspiring.
He is not stuck in the past nor in a fixed mindset.
He is open
and
he makes me ponder my own aging.

Will I be able to do a life review and seek forgiveness for where I have erred?
Will I be able to set aside worn out ideas
to embrace
new insights?
Will I be able to look squarely into life with all of its sorrows
seen at arms length and experienced personally
and still
have eyes shining
with expression of
hope?

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How might we all gain the wisdom to grow in grace as we advance in years?

*** ***** *

If you know someone like the man I’m referring to
take a moment
to give
thanks
for a life very well lived.

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