Category Archives: love

The Loudly Beating Heart of 2017

Evelyn de Morgan “Aurora Triumphans”

Right now, we are the woman draped in roses in this painting. The trumpets are sounding for the dawn of the new year. 2017 crawls away. Soon, we will have no choice but to get up, get moving and create 2018.

But first, we rest in the liminal space of what was and what will be.

Perhaps my reflections from this liminal space will bring to mind gifts you received in the passing year…

In 2017, I joined the team of spiritual directors at Loyola Spirituality Center in St Paul, MN and listened to the spiritual journeys of people ranging in age from 18 to 67, from atheists to Christian clergy.

It’s hard to articulate just how much I love this work I do, how much I love each person who comes to my office or home to share glimpses of their heart.

While the outside world of 2017 was ugly on many levels, my work as a spiritual director keeps me tapped into the beauty of the human heart. In one way or another, each seeker reveals to me their earnest desire to be more…  (genuine, balanced, whole, loving, mindful, thoughtful, open-hearted, joyful, close to the Divine, aligned with their true gifts and purpose and so on.)

It is this ache to embody the fullness of who we really are that is so beautiful, and I get to witness it daily.

Also in 2017, I spent months assisting a friend through her dying process. I walked her through her fears, held her during her final night and the next day I offered a blessing during her bedside service. I stayed there in her house with her loved ones all through the next day too, and when I finally emerged out into the public – a grocery store, to be exact  – I was nearly knocked over with love for the first stranger I saw. It was weird, because at first I pictured this stranger dead, and then I saw his light shining within and all around him

and then my heart felt “we are exactly the same” – this man of a different age, race, gender and size than me – we all have these bodies that we carry around and we are all the same light.

I guess spending so much time in that veil between the physical and spiritual realm gave me a glimpse of this reality in a visceral, visible way. That is the greatest gift I received in 2017, and I credit the expansively loving nature of my beautiful friend who died.

In sum, 2017 cracked open my heart and more fully connected me to the hearts of others. That was not my goal or new year’s resolution, it is just what happened. Less poetic things happened too – financially, physically, etc – but my expanded heart and the gift of a vocation that makes it beat louder and stronger all the time keeps everything else in perspective.

What gift of awareness did 2017 bring you?

Happy New Year, Everyone and

may 2018 bring you closer to embodying the fullness of who you really are!

Are you interested in trying a spiritual direction session?

Email me at carolyn@loyolaspiritualitycenter.org

 

 

What If Every Time You Saw a Nativity Scene…

Mary Southard, CSJ

What if…

…every time you saw a nativity scene, you visualized the baby as a metaphor for a mysterious, beautiful energy that is constantly birthing itself  into the world?

…every time you heard a song about the nativity, you used lyrics such as ‘o come let us adore him’ as a reminder to honor this energy that is already alive within yourself and within everyone you meet?

…every time you encountered any version of the Christmas story, you allowed it to serve as a reminder that although this beautiful energy is “forever being born in the human soul,” we must constantly make room in our awareness for it – emptying our minds of the clutter, opening to the reality of the present – because otherwise “there is no room in the inn for such a mystery?”

What if the point of the Christmas story has always been that:

1) this mysterious, beautiful energy is already present “hidden inside of everything”

2) yet we’re still always waiting (longing!) to see it revealed in the world because we’re too clouded from the reality that this energy is everywhere and already birthed inside of us?

Try listening to the story and all of its details – angels singing in the sky, refugee woman giving birth in stranger’s shed, lowly field men approaching in awe – as a metaphor for a moment when suddenly the universe stops and loudly announces that this energy of love is here! alive in the world! incarnate!

Behold! I bring you great news! The beautiful energy of love is here! Alive in the world! Incarnate!

And when an evil king tries to snuff out this loving energy  – be like the wise person who followed their intuition and enabled the energy to prevail.

May each of you fully know the beauty that is already birthed inside of you.

Merry Christmas!

(All quotes come from Richard Rohr’s Advent Message video which can be found here.)

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.

Full of Yourself in the War Between Love and Hate

This post stems from the lowest of lows in public discourse – a trivial social media disagreement about a pop culture topic.

Specifically, a group of nice, middle-aged white ladies (yes, I’m the pot with the kettle in this story) criticizing how “full of herself” Beyoncé was during the “spectacle” of her Grammys performance.

I don’t know much about Beyoncé. I’m generally dismissive of pop culture artists since they are often just corporations in disguise. I don’t listen to much pop.

I watched the Grammys from my sick bed while recovering from the flu and goofing around online.

Beyoncé’s performance mesmerized me.

Visually stunning, it was not based on the usual shock-factor or hyper-sexuality that dominates so much of pop star women’s performances. Rather, it seemed to be exalting the love between mothers and daughters, Black mothers and daughters, to sacred status.

At one point Beyoncé said,

“If we’re going to heal, let it be glorious/ One thousand girls raise their arms.”

Quite a powerful statement given how much healing we’re yearning for in this political climate, and how girls and women are leading the march towards healing in unprecedented ways.

I googled Beyoncé’s  words and learned that they came from the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, whom Beyoncé collaborated with to make her Lemonade album.

Shire also wrote the devastating poem “Home” about the refugee experience, which begins:

“no one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark”

Please read the whole poem. Read it now.

It turns out that in addition to being “full of herself,” Beyoncé was using her platform to highlight a voice that needs to be heard, a story that needs to be told.

Which brings me to the point of my post:

These days the battle between love and hate has been pushed to the forefront in a way I have not seen (noticed) in my lifetime. As one of those nice, middle aged white ladies, I am not confronted with hatred often – I get to observe it from the safety of my couch while watching the news. Even so, I can plainly see that hatred (toward refugees, people of color, anyone made to live on the margins of society) is more out in the open, but love is too.

I appreciate artists using their medium to elevate love to its sacred status.

Let’s appreciate the voice of love when we see it – especially if it takes us out of our comfort zone.

It’s easy to say that we stand for love, just like it is easy for some people to go to church and think they’ve done their weekly work for God. But standing for love and being close to God is not meant to be easy.

Living our lives as embodied love is elusive. You can work at it for years, studying the great spiritual leaders of your faith, doing the psychological uncovering of your ego and yet still be withholding love in countless ways – from your too-loud neighbors, or from a community of people in your own town who are struggling in ways you’re blind to, or even from your own child who is working your very last nerve.

We each withhold love in various ways each day and that is what separates us from the Divine. Moving closer to God means moving closer to fully embodying love in our daily lives.

What if our love for others was as bright and bold as Beyoncé’s headdress?

We have arrived in an era when hate speech and love speech are more out in the open than has been the case for awhile.

If you are on the side of love, it’s time to be fully love, full of love, full of yourself as love. Anything less is to comply with the hate that surrounds you.

And white readers, if we are turned off by something that a black or brown person is doing, let’s think long and hard before using “they are full of themselves” as a proclamation of our distaste.

If we are on the side of love, we strive for everyone – especially those who have blatant hatred directed at them just for existing – to be fully themselves.

Photo Credits

Courtesy of Beyoncé/eonline.com

beyonce-en-deesse-solaire-a-la-ceremonie-des-grammy-awards-2017_230698_w696[1].jpg

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NARAS/eonline.com
Womens March in Providence, RI (AP ) NYTCREDIT: Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Associated Press