Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Transitions’

To Stay or Go ~ Spiritual Communities & Community Ministry

Brace yourselves; here comes the C-word and the J-word, not to mention the R-word.

Popular author Anne Rice has “quit” Christianity. On her Facebook page last week she wrote:

“Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out…I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

And this morning in my inbox I discovered a stunning response in the form of an article in Salon magazine, from Lily Burana, who has chosen to stay and fight. She wrote:

“Religion can be freighted with heartache, disappointment, uncomfortable adjustment and the dreary slog through the vale of tears. But I believe we can fashion the pieces of a broken heart into a new shape of belief. I’d rather endure the contortions of worship than suffer the bone-dry refuge of refusal or a spiritual life half-lived.”

Here’s the link to the article.

Some time ago, with the blessing of The Center for Progressive Christianity, I created a Facebook page, wanting to spread the word about this group’s work and resources. If you are one of those, like me, hanging in there with Christianity, you may wish to check it out. This month’s articles at www.tcpc.org are about Anne Rice’s decision, people who consider themselves SBNR (spiritual but not religious), the new atheists, interfaith – innerfaith, and more.

As an infant, I was baptized in the Universalist Church (in the 1960s it merged with the Unitarian Church, to form Unitarian Universalism). Although I trained as a UU minister, I am not firmly planted in a UU church, nor am I a free-floating follower of Jesus, but rather someone with more than one spiritual home. This is distasteful (bordering on heretical) to many people calling themselves Christians, but my religious experience is not a “spiritual life half-lived;” it is expansive and broad, as well as deeply rooted. I like to think it’s the way Jesus lived, breaking bread with all kinds of people, while intimately knowing his Source. Community is important to me; if I cannot find it, I gather with others and  help it grow. And I see this happening all around me. Community ministry. Yup. That’s what I do.

Persephone returns!

In the Garden, March 5, 2010

When the first green shoots appeared in early spring, I took my then-young daughter out to the garden. There we sat on the earth while I told her Charlene Spretnak’s version of the  myth of Demeter and Persephone (Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths).

There are many Spring-related stories, myths and legends, but I chose this particular version because of the themes of mother-daughter love, the removal of the “rape” element (which was added in later, Hellenized versions), and the message of our deep embeddedness in nature.

Now I have granddaughters, and can share stories with them. Brigid’s light grows, and she spreads her green mantle across the land; the Christ-light will soon be resurrected in our hearts; and this month we celebrate the Celtic saints David (with daffodils) and Patrick (with shamrocks, seamrog– clovers and trefoils). One of my favorite Celtic saints is Melangell, patron of rabbits and hares, small animals, the natural environment, and healing. Bunnies and chicks! http://saintspreserved.com/Melangell.html

The daylight grows stronger, and will soon equal the hours of darkness. The robins are here, the mounds of snow are shrinking, and the green is sprouting. At last.

In the Garden - March 5, 2010

Wondrous Words

In the past few days, I felt out of sorts, as if my life no longer “fit” properly. In my experience, when I feel that discomfort – like a hermit crab that’s outgrown its borrowed shell, or a snake on the verge of molting – it is uncomfortable, constricting, dark and tight.

There was nothing to do but wait for whatever was wanting to come forth. I found myself wistfully remembering the spaciousness in which I usually live, wondering where it went. Waiting. Knowing that I’ve been through this experience before. Being a compassionate witness to my own tight, small predicament, without being overwhelmed by it. Not trying to think my way out of it.

And this morning, a reminder came that opened me to the world again. It was another natural wonder, this time in the form of written words from another person. The words were not addressed specifically to me, but to “readers” in general, yet they flew straight to my heart. Such is the dance we weave with one another, unpredictable, surprising, amazing grace.

Sometimes when other people share their deepest thoughts and feelings, they can lead our hearts to open. When we are warmed by the touch of others, we find ourselves shedding the thick blanket of self-stories in which we have wrapped ourselves. By simply reading the words of another struggling, growing person, my window on the world was thrown open. Heart-strings stretched, the door swung out upon on its hinges; I could step through it. Are there any words that can adequately describe these liminal threshold experiences?

In addition to reminding me that I am not alone, this morning’s communication revealed to me that we are fractals of one another, beautiful patterns within patterns, recognizing ourselves in one another.

The shell, the too-tight skin is left behind. “We are called again and again to come forth from our tombs.” Alleluia! And it’s not even Easter yet.

Up-Close and Natural

Because we are part of the natural world, our earthly story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, or a profound feeling of belonging. What is happening now outside your window? As I look out, I see that once again a soft blanket of white covers the ground and rooftops. The new snow clings to the tree branches, creating a fairyland in the ravine behind my house. Once again, the world has been reborn.

Today I will take a walk and look for messages. These messages may take the form of a sharp cold scent on the breeze; the sound of some water trickling beneath the snow; bird calls; animal tracks in the snow; the soft kiss of snowflakes on my face; the winter light, with its gray, blue, and sepia shadows; the shape of the bare tree branches against the white sky. My walk will be different from any other time, and though the place may be familiar, it will be new.

To dive even deeper, I may take out my loupe, a lens that goes with me everywhere, nestled in its tiny, wine-colored pouch. It allows me to see a world that is usually hidden from our everyday eyes. Through the loupe, a tiny area becomes an entire world from an insect’s point of view, evoking images, memories, and inspiring art and poetry.

We will do this together, looking for messages, exploring the outer world up close, seeing what that experience evokes in our inner worlds. The listing with the date and time for this gathering will appear on the Services / Gatherings page of this blog.

Depths

A number of years ago I attended  a gathering with Jean Houston. She talked about the special social responsibility of people over fifty years of age, because elders have a life-time of experience and have “access to the depths.”

What depths are these? I think of the Underworld, understood in many ways by different cultures. In myth, the Underworld, or Otherworld, is sometimes a place one travels not just after death, but during life. It is very dangerous, and sometimes beautiful. Time has a different quality there; many years can pass in the outside world while one is entranced and / or challenged in the Otherworld. If one is able to return to this life again, it is with a gift or gifts, which are to be shared with others.

As people who have experienced the depths of life, those over fifty who approach life consciously can see the larger picture. We have visited the Underworlds of life, and returned after those experiences of profound loss and grief, the “innering” work of depression, or deep pain; we have explored the Otherworlds of enchantment, beauty, grace and joy.  As pilgrims returning from the depths, we can bring forward new ways of being in our world, new possibilities.

Many systems are in transition now: planetary, political, personal. Think of the “transition” phase of giving birth: the time when you want to call the whole thing off because it is all too difficult and overwhelming. That phase arrives just before the final stage of birthing, the breakthrough, when we push new life into the world. This can be the birth of ideas, creativity, and action. The elder years present a time for a different kind of birthing.

Accessing the depths requires inner space, a cultivation of imagination, and a small community in which to share, nurture, and celebrate the process of integrating our Underworldly and Otherworldly life experiences. You may already belong to a circle of friends which serves this growing-edge purpose.  Elder-wisdom. It’s a powerful time to be coming of age, drawing strength and knowledge from our depths, moving into the wisdom stage of our lives, and sharing those gifts.

The Year of the Barn

In seeking an indoor space for meetings, as well as a space to do my textile artwork, we have been working on the upper story of the old carriage barn. After replacing the roof, the first task was to clear out decades of accumulated stuff.

Next, we found that the sill had rotted, though the foundation was fine. So the sill and some of the siding were replaced, at the back of the barn:

And at both sides:

Windows were replaced in the lowest level of the back (the horse stalls), and added to the front and back of the barn on the top level.

Two windows, one at each end, will be added to the side walls on the top floor. The interior staircase is in place, and now insulation, electrical and interior walls are in process. When the indoor work is done, and the weather is warm enough, we’ll scrape, paint, and beautify.

Meanwhile, going through a lifetime of /stuff/ has been intense.  It has called for a life retrospective, which is appropriate, difficult, and liberating. “Let It Go” has been my mantra.

This is The Year of the Barn.

The Possible

Here, on the first day of the New Year, I cannot help but think of possibilities.  For me, setting up this SWW blog is a way of exploring one stream of possibility in the year ahead.  I will be adding information here about events, as well as adding more books to the book list page. Your suggestions for books that reflect an Earth- or Cosmos-oriented perspective on life, art, and spirituality would be most welcome.

Back to the “sense of the possible” that arises for us at a time of new beginnings such as the New Year.  From what source springs this sense of possibility?  There are many ways to approach this – through psychology, biology, consciousness studies, religion, etc.  Speaking of the cosmos, Brian Swimme refers to the “all-nourishing abyss” from which all possibility and newness in the universe arises. In her book Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood, Mary Conrow Coelho expresses it like this:

“But it is a fact that now, in the context of the new universe story, we are becoming aware of the power for transformation grounded in the inexhaustible fecundity at the root of reality in every region of the universe in this present moment.” (p.378)

A theist might say, “With God, all things are possible.”

Whatever the source, I know that at this time, if I open myself to possibility, it changes the way I see my life in such a way that I can recognize within myself the sacred potential with which each of us is endowed, whether we see that endowment as a gift of God or a gift of the Universe’s holy process of emergence. This process is enhanced by engaging with others who are also examining the possibilities which the new year may bring for them. I hope you have a friend (or friends) with whom you can share your own hopes and dreams, along with plans for their outer creative expression.

Happy New Year!