Category Archives: seasons

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.)

Celebrating the Eclipse Spirit Full Style

Yesterday’s eclipse was magical. Did you feel it?

I didn’t look.

Instead, at its peak I lead a quiet meditation with a few friends. It felt wonderful to clear our minds, make space for the new chapter of the New Moon and absorb the celestial energy.

Before the peak, we feasted on sunshiny lemon ricotta cakes with blueberry moon sauce, turmeric yellow frittata, English cheddar with fig preserves, grapes, yellow watermelon, purple Izzy soda and Moscato wine. If the heavens give us a reason to celebrate, why not do so with colorful gusto?!

As the eclipse was ending, we dropped flowers into the creek and let the combined moon and sun energy carry our wishes into the future.

It was a magical eclipse.

How did you mark this significant day?

Eclipse photo credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Water Ballet at the Community Pool

Loyola Spirituality Center
As each person is awakened to the sacred in all life, 
the world is transformed.
“Celebrating Summer Solstice and Joining Loyola”
…During one summer of despair, I knew I had to dig deeper to find ways of connecting to the moment, and that is how I discovered what is now a favorite summer hangout – the outdoor community pool! I had taken my daughter there when she was little, but then when she became too cool for the pool, I got the urge to go alone one difficult day after work. I entered the deep end and then danced my own water ballet while kids splashed and screamed all around me and the sun beat down on my face. Something about the weightlessness of my body as I treaded and stretched as well as the otherworldly feeling when I swam beneath the surface made me feel especially connected to the moment and to my body, my spirit, my neighbors and my Creator. Going to the pool regularly became a part of my yearly summer rhythm. I let myself melt into the community waters and become one with all that is…..

 

Time Acts Differently

Time acts differently around the dying.
While the living are out and about doing their thing,
checking clocks,
planning,
checking schedules –
time will expand and contract accordingly.
Around the dying one,
time does no such thing.
It has one slow, steady pace,
loudly beating the seconds,
each second to be suffered through,
or savored.
Each second
keenly keeping pace,
through anticipation,
dread
or calm.
Time holds the dying,
and for the witness,
each second
vibrates through body and soul.

Ready or Not, Here is 2017

Who knows what triumphs and struggles the new year will bring? Beyond our individual plans and goals, 2017 is threatening frightening political and social changes, the level of which remains to be seen. Now is a good time to ask what our role will be in the year ahead, both in our personal lives and in our communities.  

I’d like to share something that I learned in 2016 which is helping me answer this question.

In early 2016, a close family member landed in the hospital for nearly two weeks after a frighteningly reckless action. That was the beginning of a months-long nightmare that somehow lead to an ideal resolution beyond the limits of my imagination. My loved one is now doing well.

Looking back on how the horrible ordeal turned into a blessing, I see that I had a little control over whether the outcome was tragic or joyous. Very little control, but I never lost sight of it. I could influence my loved one, perhaps expand or contract some of her options, but not control her. Therefore, I packed my little amount of control with clear, focused intention. The rest I let go, which gained me unfavorable judgments by others, but ultimately allowed the ideal resolution to present itself. In other words, I found the balance between acting with intention and being open to unforeseen possibilities.

How did I find this balance? Meditation, prayer and spiritual guidance made my intuitive voice loud and clear, gave me the strength to follow my intuition in an unpopular direction and guided me in the ebb and flow of action and letting go.

My new year’s message is therefore a reminder that you can influence the circumstances of 2017, but you cannot control what will happen. Be decisive about your intentions, use spiritual practices that strengthen your intuitive voice and seek the balance between taking action and being open to the unexpected.

Let’s do this and make 2017 a year filled with peace, justice and hope for us all.  

Appreciating the Darkness (Or Happy Holidays!)

I tend to be much more reflective during this time of the waning sun.

I journal, read through old journals, sort through old photos, paint, meditate, revisit favorite well-worn books, think about what I want to experience in the new year and so on.

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The moon from my front porch

In other words, I go deep – reminiscing, ruminating, then reformulating how I want to spend my time on this earth, in this body.

It’s part of living in the rhythm of the seasons, keeping in step with the encroaching darkness.

How do you keep in step with the rhythm of the seasons?

Back on Halloween, my friends and I came together to honor Death, the dead and the season of dying and letting go. We can’t hide from Death, so we might as well face it together, with wine and good food, sharing by candlelight and even a little shouting under the moon.

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My dining room on Halloween

Letting go was more than just a metaphor for me this Fall, as it was the time I had to let my daughter move into young adulthood and I adjusted to a newly empty nest. It was also when I accompanied a dear friend as she transitioned into hospice care.

Face it – we have no choice but to let go  – of youth, health, loved ones, certain ideas about ourselves and what we’re here to do, rigid plans – all of it has to go sooner or later.

Ashes to ashes and so on.

From a Halloween Puppet Festival
From a Halloween Puppet Festival

Halloween confronts death, and the Fall season with its falling leaves reminds us to let go of whatever is dying in our lives.

Then November comes, Thanksgiving in the USA, and we express our gratitude for whatever has remained.

This turkey is happy to be alive and on my car.
Grateful turkey

I let go as my daughter moved into her next stage of life and then on Thanksgiving she and I came together and celebrated our familiar, yet evolving relationship with the familiar foods and rituals of Thanksgivings past. It was nice.

Now Winter Solstice is approaching. The Holiday Season. The days are getting so dark and we are moving so far from the sun we fear we may never see it again.

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This darkness drives us a little mad, and many start to maniacally shop, throw holiday parties and do all they can to be merry, merry, merry.

Some, like me, settle into the darkness, appreciating how snow silences the outdoors, how the quiet turns me inward until I find that the whole universe is inside of myself – the history of the world lies in wait to be found deep inside of me.

Oh, I like to make a little merry too. I go to some parties. I buy gifts. I sing loud in the car to Elvis’ Merry Christmas, Baby. I put up a big, fat Frasier Fir and fill it with lights and beads. I get out the ornaments made by my daughter, from my own childhood, and from my grandmother’s tree. I bake gingerbread cake.

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I enjoy all of that. I like to put some light and sparkle into the darkness, and make it cozy with warm smells and familiar music.

But I also enjoy making plenty of time to settle into the darkness. Reminiscing, ruminating,  and reformulating. Going down deep where I can feel the Divine and appreciate that the Sun is always there, even when we can’t see it.

My daughter will move away and still be my daughter. My friend will leave her body and still be my friend. I know these things by going deep into the darkness where true faith, peace and calm are found.

The sun will take command of the sky again soon, but in the meantime, let’s appreciate the darkness and all that we can find there.

How do you appreciate this time of darkness?