Category Archives: creativity

Inspirations From Hildegard of Bingen

As a spiritual director (and also as a parent, friend and public speaker), I try to tap people into their own wisdom and creativity.

Depending on your worldview, you may see wisdom and creative inspiration as coming from your intuition, communication with God, a collective unconscious or some combination of all three. However you define the source, practices of quiet (prayer or mediation), mindfulness (deep presence to the moment) and increasing self-knowledge (awareness of how your ego derails you) better allow wisdom and creativity to flow within you.

A spiritual director can offer guidance in these practices, help you discern when you are tapping into this flow and stand beside you as you grow in the confidence of access to your own wisdom.

One person who clearly accessed her inner wisdom and creativity – and had a spiritual director –  was a 12th century woman known as Hildegard of Bingen.

Hildegard composed powerful music that is still widely enjoyed today and which scientists have discovered activates our brainwaves in unique ways. Enter her name in YouTube and listen to some of the recordings yourself. Here’s a couple:

Hildegard wrote encyclopedias documenting the healing qualities for over 300 plants and trees. She also wrote philosophical volumes on the spiritual and natural worlds that earned her such widespread respect even emperors, popes and kings sought her counsel.

Hildegard saw everything as existing within an interconnected web of creation – and understood that by studying the microcosm we could come to understand the macrocosm. This was in the 1100s! Long before quantum physics verified her teachings.

Hildegard had “visions” through which these secrets of the universe were revealed to her. She described these visions in her writings, oversaw their portrayal in painted mandalas (such as the one above) and talked about them on her speaking tours.

She also wrote about how the process of sharing her visions with her spiritual director strengthened her confidence in them and gave her the conviction to share her message with the world.

Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness - Hildegard of Bingen

What if we all took seriously our own “visions” or moments of clarity when spiritual connectedness or creative inspiration seems to flow through us? What if we all nurtured these moments with meditation or other spiritual practices? What if we all had someone to talk to about these moments?

Hildegard may have seen her visions in what today we might call migraine auras, and much of her imagery stems from the lush forest that surrounded her monastery.

I believe we can all nurture our ability (as well as our children’s ability) to find meaning in everything around us. We all have the potential to better understand the secrets of the universe as revealed in something as simple as the veins of a maple leaf.

While Hildegard seems to have been blessed with more talents than the average human, the design of her daily life was ideal for nurturing her spiritual and creative gifts.

Since early childhood, Hildegard’s days were focused on practicing the quiet of meditative prayer and cultivating awareness of the sacred within each moment and all of creation. Knowing this helps us understand how her music and visions came to be.

How can we emulate Hildegard’s practices so as to enhance the wisdom and creativity flowing through our own lives?

Hildegard was a woman to be reckoned with. She understood the value and importance of her visions. Claiming unheard of authority for a woman not only of her time but perhaps any time in history since, Hildegard did not shrink from challenging those in power. She wrote sternly to those who she saw abusing their power, and her views were taken seriously by them.

O king, it is of utmost necessity that you take care of how you act... I see you are acting like a child. You live an insane, absurd life before God. There is still time. - Hildegard to Emperor Bararossa

If you are not familiar with Hildegard, I encourage you to get to know her better. And talk about her to the girls and young women in your lives!

Every creature is a glittering, glistening mirror of Divinity - Hildegard of Bingen

To experience some of Hildegard’s brilliance yourself, you can listen to her music or take a look at the mandalas that portray her visions. (Many of which can be found in Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen) You can read any of her books – I recommend Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs  or you can read books that have been written about her – such as Experiencing Hildegard: Jungian Perspectives. (all links are to my amazon affiliate page)

Then you’ll see for yourself why Hildegard is an inspiration for so many reasons – her access to wisdom, her holistic knowledge and creative talents, her ability to claim authority in matters not normally granted to women, her confidence in her visions and the strength of her convictions.

I will be presenting a program on Hildegard of Bingen at St Gerard Church in Brooklyn Park, MN on Feb 2, 2018, details to follow.

Let me know if you’re interested in having me speak at your event or if you’re interested in a spiritual direction session.  Email me at Carolyn@spiritfulldirection.com.

Depressed? Connect!

Depression is disconnection.

Disconnection from:
self,     others,      the world around you      and      the great Mystery.
Medications and therapy ease the symptoms, but are not a cure.

You know that, right?

My guess is that every person reading this either takes, or knows someone who takes, anti-depressants and still experiences some level of depression.

Why? Because CONNECTION is the only path to relief.

Anti-depressants can give us the boost we need to get out of our ruts and seek connection,
but without that critical step – connection – there is no real end to the misery.

Need some ideas of what can connect you?

I have suggestions,
but the key is to do something mindfully,
meaning that you are present in the activity
rather than just trying to get through it or pass the time.

Connect to the moment.

Be present to the moment and clear in your intention.
If your intention is to connect with yourself,
then create something that releases your spirit onto a physical form – paper, clay, garden plot – even if just for your eyes only. Or move your body in a way that focuses your attention on how the air fills your lungs or the sun warms your face or each of your muscles pulls and releases. 
If your intention is to seek connection with others,
then be mindful during your interactions with others of feeling tenderness for each person. Dare to have deeply honest and meaningful conversations.
If your intention is to connect with the world around you,
then be present to the clouds, the grass, the birds.
If you intention is to seek connection with the great Mystery,
then let your mind soar into the space of your ancestors, the moment you came into being, or the source of all Love and Beauty.

You can connect by:

gardening, painting, writing, running, playing, volunteering at a senior living center, dancing, volunteering at an animal shelter, taking a slow walk in the forest as the trees graciously fill your lungs, performing your own water ballet in the deep end of the local pool, meditating, volunteering at a crisis nursery, praying, heart to heart talks with an old friend, heart to heart talks with a new friend, doing something for the sheer joy of it, reading a book that questions reality, watching a movie that shows you life through fresh eyes.

What works for you?

If this sounds overwhelming or you don’t know what will connect you and you don’t have the energy to find out –
then get the boost you need from medication, therapy –
and then take that next step towards
connecting yourself to what brings meaning to your life.

Legacies

  • I’m watching an American Experience episode about Walt Disney on PBS. He certainly was a flawed human, but I’m fascinated by his early designs and models of Disneyland and how deeply satisfied he was when his vision finally came to fruition. He kept an apartment underneath Disneyland’s Main Street USA, and could be found walking the park early mornings in his bath robe.

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  • Six months after Prince’s sudden death, people are flying across the globe to visit his home and studio, hear the music he was creating and absorb his energy. Just as he had hoped.

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  • A few days ago, I met with a dear 90 year old friend, who after serving as an important spiritual and meditation mentor for decades in our city, is retiring out of town. She presented me with beautifully printed booklets of her writings and icon paintings.
  • Meanwhile, a dear longtime friend, my age, has entered into hospice care. The trees around her house are filling with ribbons placed by friends and loved ones, each bearing a blessing for her. Messages are pouring into the house, telling stories of how she has impacted the lives of others and positively influenced her community. I read some of the messages aloud to her, and she smiled.

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As I sit here only middle aged and in fine health, I can’t help but wonder:

What can I do for my loved ones and my community?

What can I create that will surpass me?

I also wonder about the connection between the quality of the relationships we nurtured, the work we’ve done in our communities, the creativity we brought to life – and our comfort with death and dying.