“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.

*** ***** *
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.

*** ***** *

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?

*** ***** *

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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Visio Divina

I now have a clear response for the retirement question
what are you doing these days?

These days
I am having fun with construction paper, a glue stick, and magazine pictures
and I am creating a delightful mess!

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A Grade 7 teacher at our local Catholic School wanted to create a Lenten unit about
prayer
and asked if I would offer her two classes of 25 or so youth
a teaching
on either Lectio Divina or Visio Divina
and I chose
Visio.

Who wouldn’t want to do this with 50 twelve year olds!!???
I am excited
and
I am preparing.

I need to have 50 visuals by Tuesday:
cut, tear, paste
arrange
repeat.

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What is Visio Divina?
You’ve likely heard of Lectio, it’s more popular relative.
These are practices from the early Monastic Movement
now being revived with great enjoyment for a new time.

Lectio is the slow and savoury out-loud-reading of a sacred text or mystical poem
and so the ear hears and ponders
the word or phrase
that arises for attention.
Visio is the contemplative eye-gaze into an artistic expression which might be
classical or modern art, or
a cut and paste collage.

My home-made collages will be placed within a circle on the floor
and students will be asked to choose the one that is calling for their attention.
They will sit with it for a few minutes as questions guide their pondering:

what caught your attention?
is there a surprise here…something you didn’t initially see?
what feeling does this stir within you?
is this art offering you insight / a message?

A circle, a candle, quiet music, a feast for the eyes
and the sharing of what has been revealed
spoken into the circle.

The insight and wisdom of youth.
What a great way to spend a retirement Tuesday!

*** ***** *

Want to try it?

Light a candle
perhaps put on some gentle meditative music
and then gaze into these images:

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what do you see?

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is there a surprise here?

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what do you feel?

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what is being revealed?

*** ***** *

  Visio Divina …

seeing the Divine in the world around us.

 

outer … inner

Whenever my dog Hestia has a grooming day, I enjoy a few chuckles.
Here she is pre-grooming       and        here she is post-grooming.

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Isn’t she sweet?

Different days

different looks

yet inside
the same loving, gentle, playful, faithful, companion dog.

A few months ago while on a retreat
an artist led us in the art of blind-line drawings.
This was an exercise on focus and seeing
and here are two images that were drawn of me.

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IMG_2211         Hahahaha!

In one I appear tight and made-up
perhaps poised for an important meeting.

In the other I look like I’m having
a very scattered day at home.

Outside appearances.
On different days and at different times in the day
and to different people and even to ourselves
we can look different.

Yet, there is more to each one of us
than meets the eye
much, much more!
There is a depth of reality beneath our surface
and this is called
our inner life.

Do you see your inner life?
How well do you know your inner life?

For a long time…for too long a time
I had only a small awareness of my inner life
but with the assistance of
The Enneagram and Archetypes
I have come to know more
and yet
there is always more to discover.

Each one of us is a wondrous mystery
and getting to know ourselves
is our life’s work.

Inside me, whether heading out to a meeting
or staying at home in my ‘comfies’
there is
a place of fear and a place of shame
and a place that can sense anger
and a tender love.
There is a Teacher Archetype and also
an Artist and a Hermit Archetype
and I’ve more recently discovered that
The Soul-Searcher
also lives in me.

Through awareness of our inner lives
we grow into
a knowing
of
who we are
and who are are meant to be…
our own unique calling into life and into the world.

When we speak of doing our inner work
we should capitalize Work
because
it is Work
to observe and explore and understand
all of the reactions and feelings and wisdom
that appear inside of us
in the days of our living.

I am intrigued with the inner life
with the inner motivations, deep desires and
gifts
that show forth in us, yet
sometimes hide within
needing a nudge to be revealed.

I wonder
if you
are also intrigued
with the inner life
and
I wonder
how you go about
knowing
yours?

*** ***** *

We are unique and wondrously made…
each one of us!

A treasure to discover.

Travel at home

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When one retires people often ask
are you planning to travel?
It seems that travel is expected of retired folk.

As I approached my retirement I heard myself say:
when I retire, it will be nice to be able to go somewhere
warm
to escape the coldest part of winter for awhile.

Well, this opportunity came, and
we looked at a few options for January or February
travel
and then decided to stay home.

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For several years I have had a yellowing newspaper clipping
pinned before me at my office desk
and I brought it with me to my home desk.
It was cut from the October 27, 2007
Globe and Mail Saturday Travel Section.

These words of Alison Wearing had caught my attention:
The only ‘place to see before you die’
is whatever spot of ground is closest to you.
Not the floor (or the carpet, for that matter)
but the ground, the earth
and all the quiet majesty it happens to hold,
wherever you are.
I’m convinced that one of the reasons so many of us
feel the urge to fling ourselves around the world is because
we spend far too much time indoors.
Travel is about connecting to what is outside of us,
to allow what is beyond us
to become part of us.
So,
go outside.
Walk to the nearest spot of earth
and notice
one beautiful thing:
how gorgeous the breeze
how exquisite the sight of a vermilion leaf pulling into downward flight
the gift that is rain.
Do that every day and you won’t need to go anywhere.
*** ***** *

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On many of our recent bitterly-cold days
it was tempting to stay inside, but
Hestia
insists that we go out
and I have been grateful to her.
She has been my travel companion at home.

While Alison spoke of breeze and a leaf and rain
I have felt bitter wind and seen snow fall
and
I have noticed:
snow that is dense and heavy
snow that is light and twinkling
snow that crunches
snow that is quiet.
I have noticed:
footsteps
mine and Hestia’s
and also Squirrel, Raven, Deer, and Lynx.
I have noticed:
bending branch and winter-clad needles
bright blue sky, subdued grey landscape
and brilliant sunset.

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My ‘itinerary’
for my travel
at home
has been
The Contemplative Journey
of trying to
notice
and
pay attention to
and
appreciate
‘the spot of ground that is closest to me’.

Work took me away.
Retirement is bringing me home.

Here…there is much to contemplate.

*** ***** *

What are you noticing on the spot of ground that is closest to you?

 

What do I/you love?

In this new year, my attention has been caught by the word
love
that elusive but very real heart-sensation that defies definition
and yet
we know it when we feel it.

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The new year readings that have lifted this up for me to
consider
have come from a variety of sources
each and all asking that I pay attention to
what I love.

First
from a book that our daughter gave her Dad for Christmas
marie kondo, in “the life-changing magic of tidying up”
offers the beautiful idea/practice of simplifying/lessening
the ‘stuff’ of one’s life
(a good follow-up to my last post on subtraction)
by tidying with attention and intention.

She asks readers to consider:
What things will bring you joy if you keep them as part of your life?
Keep only those things that speak to your heart.
And the practice is to hold, to ponder, and to give thanks
for the item (a book, article of clothing etc) whether it is to be kept or released.

We have started to do this.

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Second
is one of the ‘Embracing Mystery’ practices from
Christine Valters Paintner (see Website Resources) who wrote:
… (cultivate) a deep trust in what you love.
What are the things that make your heart beat loudly,
no matter how at odds they feel with your current life
(and perhaps especially so)?
Make some room this year to honour what brings you alive.

Third
are two reminders from an on-line retreat I’m participating in:
A story from the Desert Fathers where an Abba says to a Seeker
Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.
and from Deuteronomy
I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.

And Fourth
the word Viriditas, used by the 12th century mystic
Hildegard of Bingen, meaning
the greening power of God
or
that which brings life to birth.

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So I’ve been asking myself:
what brings me joy / what do I love?
what makes my heart quicken?
what satisfies my heart?
what gifts me with a green birthing?
because I think that I will live more fully in my precious remaining years
if I live as much as I can from a place of
love.

I fully realize that life also contains the hard work
of doing things out of necessity.
Daily life is not all pleasure!
Sometimes it’s grunt-work or grief-work or just plain hard-work
but
we can at least attune to this
realizing the difference between
that which weighs us down and that which lifts us up;
that which feels like a burden and that which delights and fulfills.

Attention
and
Awareness

*** ***** *

So how do I answer the question ‘what do I love’ ?

I love many people and many activities and some things.
I love my family and my friends and my dog Hestia.
I love music and art and books and yarn.
I love Sacred Story and Community Ritual.
I love walking and camping.
I love the things I have that have been made or used by someone I love.

When I take a deeper look inward …
I love the uniqueness of people.
I love the Human Story.

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I love the Wisdom of the Mystics.
I love inner-spiritual Work.

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I love the Compassion that binds us together …
the knowing that we are Kin and therefore
inter-connected and inter-dependent in this wondrous web of life.

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I love the goodness of humankind
that isn’t often headline news, yet daily
people reach out to feed and shelter and listen and
love.

I love the Holy Energy that permeates our world …

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and I wonder

what do you love?

*** ***** *