Our cities and towns are filled with veterans who have served our country — many returning proud of their service, and many traumatized, injured and struggling to reclaim the life they once knew. Most of these men and women have known fellow soldiers who have lost their lives, returning in flag-draped caskets. And they remember!
I went shopping for a ‘Mother’s Day’ card recently. I wanted to get it in the mail a week early so it would arrive in time for May 8th.
My intention was to simply pop into a store, get the card and mail it on my way home. But as I perused the multitude of cards, I began to feel frustrated. The cards seemed to be so limited in what they had to say and so absent of the stories I hear from ‘mothers’ as I listen in spiritual direction week after week!
There was such joy-filled excitement May 8, 1996. I opened the box containing our Eremos Board Minutes file and the official embossing stamp Eremos, 1996. I felt like a woman who had just received an engagement ring. There was joy, hope, anticipation of a life commitment, and just a little anxiety as well as I wondered if I could really do what would be asked of me. I remember I was alone in the house when it arrived. My first thought was to wonder: “Who do I call? Who will celebrate this moment and how would I let the world know life had changed forever?”
And so the years have unfolded. We have had dark moments of uncertainty, we have had moments of light and clarity, we have had people ebb and flow from our programs. We have had our original members remain with us over all these years. We have celebrated marriages, the births of children, and the deaths of members and their loved ones. We have lived and loved, laughed and cried these 20 years.
We have been faithful to our mission of contemplation beholding God in mystery. And God has truly been faithful to us. 20 years is a long time. As with all major markers in our lives, it is a time to remember the past and dream into the future. It is time to wonder again: “Who will we now call into leadership? How will we keep the mission of Eremos alive and relevant in our changing world? Who will celebrate this special time with us?”
We will have two celebrations to mark this moment. May 15th will be a casual Open House to drop in for cake and ice cream at Eremos. The second will be our more formal celebration at our Gala on November 3rd. Join us for these events. Bring your stories and help us gather and weave these stories into a strong foundation for the next generation of those called to serve.
We celebrate 20 years with deep humility and gratitude. Thank you for being part of this heartbeat of God called Eremos!
In his Easter message last year, Pope Francis lamented the suffering of people because of the conflicts currently making headlines and he called for violence everywhere to end.
As I pondered this message, I was reminded of the command of Jesus as he stood outside the tomb of Lazarus: “Roll back the stone. Lazarus come out!” Death could not contain Lazarus! And in the Easter story, we discover the stone closing the tomb of Jesus had been rolled back but the body of Jesus was no longer there. The violence of the previous days had ended but death could not entomb Jesus.
Today, so many people are caring for the victims of violence. Like the women in the Easter story, we too show up with a desire to care for people. We too bring tenderness and compassion, skills and food, medicines and clothing. And like Pope Francis we too call for an end to violence.
Easter is a belief in the possibility of resurrection! It is celebrated in a season of spring when life rises out of winter’s death. It is a time when Spring proclaims death cannot be a permanent tomb, but rather becomes an awakening to new life. So too for the human person. Jesus is a proclamation of personal resurrection. Suffering and death will not be the final answer. Like the women in the resurrection story, we need to be messengers of this faith. We need to awaken to a life that is possible. It is a life of justice, compassion, and freedom from all tombs of enslavement for all people! It is Resurrection!
To the women who came to care for the body of Jesus we hear his words: “Don’t cling to me. Go and tell my disciples I have risen!” That is the message of Easter today. Don’t cling to hopelessness, to old messages of helplessness or overwhelm. Don’t be blind to old patterns of victimization. Work together for the new life Easter celebrates – a resurrected life.
May your Easter be a celebration of resurrection – for yourself and all of the people whose life you touch.
He is Risen! And in His Resurrection we too are raised up!
Guest Blog Post: John Fox, co-facilitator with Mirabai Starr of Eremos’ upcoming event: The Heartbeat of Hope: Life-Giving Nourishment in Stressful Times.
This past month, with great attention, I have slowly read Mirabai Starr’s Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation. Her life-story hits me where it truly hurts, her grief moves me to tears; it is heartening to the further edges of what is exhilarating, beautiful and unknown.
I feel significant threads in her tapestry are shared—the profound ways Ram Dass and Stephen Levine influence our life and work.
This occurred for me in the fire of my very broken places and a deep awakening, at the age of sixteen, of my consciousness reaching towards God.
Both Stephen and Ram Dass helped me open into a vivid sensitivity that is intimate with the human condition.
In the autumn of 1974, at the age of 19, soon after the amputation of my right leg, I stood with Ram Dass at the corner of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. I was distraught. I was in near despair about what living meant—or to be more exact, at that time, a fear that for me it meant nothing.
I felt as close to hopeless as one can come; fear crowded in around me.
Simultaneous with this, strangely enough, I felt an unstoppable and forceful cry forcing itself up through, from my dark unknown, crying out for God’s love, help and presence. That’s why I was standing there with Ram Dass at that street corner because of my longing and brokenness.
It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
In flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
And no space: everything is close to my face,
And everything close to my face is stone.
Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Bly
I remember he looked at me and with a gaze that felt and appeared to me far more fierce than loving, like a Jeremiah from the Old Testament.
Ram Dass said, “You couldn’t get away if you tried.”
What he said dropped into me like a small seed I could barely see. It took me time to experience what he meant. I had to wait to hear and grow into this:
I can’t escape the life I am given; and more, God does not, will not, allow me to abandon Her. What I didn’t realize for quite a while (and though I can still forget) although I felt abandoned in the extreme, the deep and lovely truth is this: I had never been apart from the Great Spirit, never abandoned, nor could I run away!
His statement doesn’t address how I should respond, it said something else; I feel it speaks to a radical acceptance…not by resignation or non action…but a profound active acceptance that could, in itself, be alchemical, offer a spiritual opening.
That’s what Ram Dass was saying to me—a deep, and, yes, fierce transmission of abiding, even tender, love.
Seven years later, I met Stephen Levine (blessing upon him) and while I had grown considerably, there remained inner work to be done. What I learned from Stephen was how to deeply listen to a person. I began to reclaim within myself a much better sense of humor and playfulness. Yet, even more, I learned from Stephen and Ondrea the practice of staying with people, even when there was great discomfort.
All of this was essential to my own learning and I have brought what I learned from them into the work with Poetic Medicine.
What I want to offer with Mirabai on April 9th is a day for you to get in touch with your unique heartbeat—that drum of life-blood, awareness and sensitivity—your spiritual heart which is so often connected to what we mean by that somewhat elusive word, hope.
We will offer dialogue and stories, writing and contemplative practice that encourage exploration, sharing and reflection.
In recalling Kabir’s “breath inside the breath,” it may be only a hair’s breath underneath your physical heartbeat is another heartbeat, that is, by its mysterious nature, able to speak to you as a dear friend, comfort you with nurturing silence, cry out with you, or, if need be, cry for you, in a raw and absolutely necessary way.
Please join us!
*Excerpt from John Fox’s March 2016 Institute of Poetic Medicine Newsletter
Within the Christian experience, we’re now immersed in the intensity of ‘holy week’. There are so many themes running through it that it is almost overwhelming listening to all that unfolded in the life of Jesus in just one week.
And as I have pondered all those biblical stories, I recognize they are also our stories.
Who among us has not experienced a celebration and affirmation of our accomplishments perhaps through our work or education, or volunteering opportunities? Each of us knows the exhilaration of praise and acknowledgment that the Palm Sunday liturgy contains. And like Jesus, all too quickly we can be seen in disfavor by people in authority or the very people we have invited into a new way of thinking and relating to the one called God.
Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is to sit with those we love and celebrate a meal together. How often have we invited or been invited to share a meal with family and friends? How often have we looked around the table and gazed lovingly at these people? And often I hear stories from parents about the betrayal of their children and the stories of children needing to ‘get away’ from parents whose values are not consistent with who they want to be. And I hear stories of friends needing to leave friends to find those more compatible with who they have become. These are our stories of Holy Thursday in 2016.
Like Jesus, we too seek nature to restore our souls. In the wilderness we find a level of connection born of silence, of the earth from which all is made. In that space of intimacy we too grapple with who we are and who we need to become. We too learn to yield to a God whose name is as personal as the relationship we have been called into.
Good Friday can only be called that once we have come through the multitudes of deaths our lives have encountered. Some like Mary of Nazareth have sat with loved ones watching every drop of blood flow from their bodies. Some have watched as a loved one is executed for a crime s/he may have been judged to commit. Some have felt agony so deep they too cry out ‘why, why have you abandoned me’!
Is it any wonder that we need Holy Saturday? We need time to sit in silence and solitude to absorb all our life has held. All that being in relationship with others and with God has demanded.
It is indeed a ‘holy week’ because the very life of Jesus is our life too. I hope you will find time to journey through this week and discover anew who you are, who God is and how your life journey continues to be a holy one.
Guest Post by Manning Wolfe
Buckminster Fuller espoused the idea that a strong context is needed to foster lasting content. In other words, in order to display fruit, you need a fruit bowl to contain it. Working with Jean Springer as my Spiritual Director, and living within the Eremos community has supported the development of the context or framework, in which the new content or path, of my life is supported.
I came to Jean over fifteen years ago unable to step into the next chapter of my life. I was searching for a way to go deeper, to unload the baggage of the past, and to move into the possibility of a brighter more vibrant existence. I had grown tired of my career but did not know how to step into another one. I sought stability, peace of mind, and freedom of expression.
Jean’s ability to hold a space for creative possibility allowed me to evolve as a human being and move forward. She walked the talk and provided inspiration through her very being. Her sage advice and investment of time and energy in my individual development allowed me to explore and discover myself in ways I would not have found on my own. My trust in her and her ability to create a safe space allowed for my deeper awareness and growth. Our work in this safe environment for many years allowed me to develop myself.
Jean’s listening and encouragement allowed me to then integrate the learning into my life and her voice provided a strong “inner voice” of guidance that I carried with me into the world and used to find and express my own voice. Her unconditional acceptance, coupled with the sense of belonging in the Eremos community, allowed me to feel trusted and known. It allowed me to more fully reveal myself and therefore, become more capable of taking risks in the world outside the directing room and the Eremos membership.
Jean’s belief in my vision of living the writer’s life was as important as my desire to achieve it. Her gentle challenge to me to evolve as a person provided the inspiration for me to take on even greater challenges and stretch from within. Her non-judgmental respect for the pursuit of my dream of becoming a published author was important, but more significant was her assistance in developing the underlying values to drive the pursuit. She encouraged me to allow for the possibility that my path led outside the writing life. That freedom to choose and explore other possibilities affirmed my desire to continue toward a writing career.
An author friend of mine said to me, “If you are going to be a published writer, you can hide nothing. If you don’t put it all out there, you won’t succeed.”
I felt a bolt of truth when I heard that statement, as I had been working with Jean on this very topic for not months, but years. I had never encapsulated the issue this succinctly, but when I thought back, I had been moving toward my being in the world in this new “exposed” way for some time.
If Eremos is about going in, what does that have to do with going out into the world as an author and speaker? Everything, because the strength that is created through working with a Spiritual Director like Jean, reading and contemplating good ideas and materials, and spending time in quiet contemplation, meditation and moving arts, allowed me to become more balanced and accepting of my inner self. As Rev. Michael Beckwith would say, I strengthened my “spiritual muscle”. It provided the basis for shameless revelation of self to the world.
So, here I am with a book that has been revealed to everyone I know, and a lot of people I’ve never met. I am exposing myself in a huge way with inner thoughts and stories that I’ve not shared before. It is significant that my inner critic considered the novel to be inconsequential. It is a fun romp through the life of a fictional character. On the surface, it doesn’t have anything to do with contemplation or Spiritual enlightenment. It took a long time for me to see the value in pure entertainment without purpose because that is its purpose. I did not need to write the story of my inner development because the ability to put the book into the world is the proof of my expanded ability to create and share. It is the evidence that the context is in place to hold the content.
Thanks Jean! I could not have published my first book without your support and guidance. Thanks Eremos, for being in the world as a touchstone. Thanks Great Spirit, for freedom and the sheer joy of creativity.
About the Author:
Manning Wolfe, is a member of the Eremos community and is an author and attorney residing in Austin, where she writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas flavor. The first in her series, featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peak into some hero’s and shady characters’ lives and a unique perspective to spin yarns and tales about their adventures.
You can find her book on Amazon, at BookPeople, and wherever books are sold. www.manningwolfe.com
For so many people, February’s focus seems to be Valentine’s Day. Roses fill the stores and jewelry and perfume are advertised as signs of how much women are loved. The paradox is that Lent begins on February 10th with Christians all over the world focusing on sacrificial love.
Love needs expression! English attempts to convey so much in this one word. The Greeks use four words. Eros: a bodily experience of love; Phileo: affection between people; Agape, a sacrificial form of love unwilling to abandon that which is loved; and, Storge which is love of community and family.
Depending upon what’s happening in your life, the month of February can hold all of those qualities and experiences of love!
For people facing a terminal diagnosis, the waiting, the anxiety, the dizziness that comes from needing to make decisions means they stand exposed before the Mystery of Life and Love. “I am going to live until I die” proclaims a woman with stage 4 cancer and in this declaration she touches the hearts of all who know her. Living each day becomes the focus of Love for people with terminal illnesses. Their days are filled with trips for chemo or radiation treatment, doctor visits, and pain medications. And in the midst of all of this, they gather with family and friends because these connections are important touchstones of love and vitality. To be invited into the journey of people facing death is one of the greatest gifts of love we can be offered —embracing all the Greek words of love in one act of profound generosity.
“He knows me” came from a mother gazing into the eyes of her newborn child. And in that moment came a level of commitment that would transcend all the sleepless nights and worries as the child grew. Her love would be tested, but the bond of love could not be broken.
There are many moments in our lives that may not be as dramatic as both of these examples but the love we receive is profound. In those moments, we know that we are known. A touch, a gaze, a tender embrace or even a challenging word, open us to love and evoke within us a desire to love in return.
But there is even more love available to us: Divine Love! This quality of love contains all the Greek words for love and transcends them. It is a faithful love that says “even if your father and mother forsake you, I will never leave you”. It is a transforming love that says “come, follow me and I will love you into becoming what you can’t even imagine possible”. It is generative love that breathes life within each creation and invites us to continue choosing life.
The love of God is an opus sung to us in the daily rhythm of our lives. May you hear and experience this love this February. May you know how deeply and personally you are loved!
As I sit here on the threshold of a new year, I am reminded of all the people who have supported us. Our Board of Directors, our volunteers and all those who have participated in spiritual direction, contemplative programs, and our fundraising events.
We have felt so supported by all who read and comment about our e-newsletter and blog postings. Because of you Austin, San Antonio, Houston and the world is held in the tender mercy of the Beloved.
Moving into 2016 our prayer is that of St. Paul to the Ephesians:
Out of God’s infinite glory, may you receive power through the Spirit
for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and length, the height and the depth until knowing the love of the Divine, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
We look forward to 2016 and our journey together.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
A light has shone.” Isaiah 9:1
With these words, our liturgy of Christmas begins. It is a story told for over 2000 years and with each telling, new awareness arises from our life experiences.
This has been a year of darkness through violence in our streets, inequality in our housing, racial and religious fears, families in mourning, abuse of our land and children, and Governors proclaiming “there is no room in our inn for refugees”.
We have looked for a Messiah! So many voices cry out to politicians through the media: “Who can lead us into the light?” And politicians respond with, “I will save you.” “I will keep you safe!”
Has a Light shone upon us? I live a contemplative life and this gives me a sacred lens through which to gaze upon the world. We have ‘seen a great Light’ my soul cries. A Light is shining in the minds and hearts of so many people.
We see the Light through those who risk seeking refuge in the values of a country that says ‘come’ ‘we welcome you’ whether this is in Dallas or Canada. We see the Light in the racial and ethnic tensions that have been part of our country forever, but are now revealing the causes and necessary actions we need to take. We see the Light in a child who cleaned a Mosque that had been desecrated by feces. We see the Light in the men and women working toward a cleaner environment. We have seen The Light burning within many people.
As the Christmas story unfolds, it was the birth of a baby in simple poverty, amid the animals and angels that became the Light that would be the source of illumination for “those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”
The invitation of Christmas this year seems to be: Behold the Light “who has brought us abundant joy and great rejoicing.” Isaiah 9:2
May your Christmas be a celebration of Love and Light. We will hold you in prayer over these days of joy and rejoicing.
May your Christmas truly be merry and bright!