Carrying the Divine in our hearts ― and pausing often to remember that we do so ― seems to be the only way to walk through these days with hope and peace in our hearts.
Whether or not you choose to join us for our Ignatian Contemplation Series or one of our many program offerings, please know that we’re here to support you in navigating this challenging time.
May you be blessed by the awareness of the Light of the Divine within you and may you sense the peace and safety that comes from anchoring in and shining this Light.
P.S. Four facilitators have come together to create a powerful program for the under and unemployed. Please check out or share the information about the Re-Member program offering below. Only $5 for three 90-minute sessions, beginning Thursday, July 23rd.
P.P.S.If you loved our June Book Reflection Series on Pema Chödrön’s book, Welcoming the Unwelcome, we recently heard of a great virtual weekend retreat with her through the Omega Institute that you might enjoy. You can find out more here.
“Where there is light, there must be shadow, where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow…”—Haruki Murakami
What uncertainty we find ourselves living through. It is tempting to turn off the radio and TV, stop reading the newspaper or news feed and withdraw. There is just too much to process and everything seems so unlike what has gone before. Do you find yourself praying fervently for wisdom for those in leadership at all levels, for an end to the violence, and true understanding on all sides? Or is there a lack of direction, lack of focus in your life right now?
Despite all of the inner and outer turmoil, it is June, when “the world of leaf and blade and flowers explodes, and every sunset is different,” wrote John Steinbeck. Each day the world outside our door offers soft breezes and sunshine. Gardens are growing, the grass is green, and flowers are blooming. If you take time to walk and notice, the world around you is lovely, inviting.
Take tender care of yourself and those around you. We will get through this uncertainty, perhaps not with certainty, but with creativity and love.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ―Alan W. Watts
Guest blog post reposted with permission by Eremos’ friend, Carolyn Scarborough. You can find the original blog post and more at www.carolynscarborough.com.
Last week a family member shared some upsetting news, and I just lost it. I couldn’t be “strong” or “hold it together.” So, I did what I do when I need healing – I took a walk, even though it was late and dark outside.
I started thinking about all the things that were tilted in my life, from the pandemic to the news I had just heard. I was getting more and more upset wondering what to do until suddenly, out of nowhere, three words popped into my head.
I don’t know.
In the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the Greek father often would shrug his shoulders about things beyond his control and lament “I don’t know.”
I decided to try it out. When will the pandemic end? I don’t know. When will I be able to feel safe eating in a restaurant? I don’t know. How will my business and creativity be affected? I don’t know.
I started thinking about how I was even confused about what makes me happy right now. I thought I knew what it was, but I’ve not been so clear of late. When that happens, I feel scared. It’s a loss of control and surety. Yet in this moment, I didn’t feel worried at all. I let out a big exhale and almost shouted the words aloud I don’t know! Immediately, I felt better.
It felt like surrendering the steering wheel to something much bigger. Suddenly, I didn’t have to hold it all together. To control or plan things. To exhaust myself trying fruitlessly to bend life to my will. To have the right answer. Or the wrong one. I simply don’t know.
It also felt truthful. Incredibly so. I realized how many times I tell myself that I know what will happen next, how I’ll react, what I’ll do… when ultimately I have no idea. Often that thought terrifies me. But this time, it didn’t feel like a fear but a complete, glorious surrender. Finally, I could rest in the present moment.
As I walked through the darkness, the half-moon glinting between the trees, crickets chirping, the sound of the breeze swaying the leaves, I felt held. Loved. Deeply connected.
I also heard through the moonlight the whisper of mystery, and the expansiveness that comes with not knowing. When I’m in this place, my mind lets go rather than hoarding painful thoughts and imaginings. Possibilities are limitless. I get out of the way and life has a chance to surprise me, delight me, or grow me in ways I didn’t imagine, but ultimately needed.
As I rounded the bend towards home, I was almost weeping with the freedom of those three words. As for what’s next, all I know is that, I don’t know. Thank goodness…
What are you ready to admit you don’t know in this moment? Whisper it, shout it, or write it in the comments section on the blog page!
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Doug Fritzsche
Toilet paper, Tiger King and Time Itself: I’d call it the triumph of the trivial. What I’d look back on – assuming I’d look back on – all this: sequestration, coronavirus, pandemic, lockdown, whatever-you-call-it. The vacuum left when everything routine was shut off, was filled with trivia. Nature abhors a vacuum.
At least that’s what Aristotle thought. He gets credit for the line about the vacuum. Probably something that came to him when he had been sucking on his thumb and pulled it out with a resonant “pop!”
Oh yeah. Snarky. This stuff can make you snarky, too.
I have heard so many people opining on the after-life – that is, the life after “this” is over. So many, in fact, I wonder at the theology of it all. As if to reassure us, public figures like Governors’ Cuomo and Newsome soothingly assert “we Will get through this.” And I hear it often enough that I wonder, “Is this all just a meaningless spell suspensefully awaiting …. and awaiting …. and awaiting.”
Among the invaluable treasures I have gleaned in recent days is the assurance that toilet paper production is almost entirely domestic, and that there is adequate capacity regardless of panic buying. That had never crossed my mind. Honest. And that there is a subculture viciously interacting over the care and feeding of jungle animals in sunny Florida. Or that French geologist Michael Siffre spent two months in a darkened cave and discovered that his sense of passing time was off – by a lot. (That last, I think, was to reassure those who have missed Zoom meetings and forgotten it was Wednesday in the bland wasteland of unscheduled lockdown.)
If we’re all a bit adrift, who can blame us? If diving off a platform of normalcy into a well of uncertainty isn’t cause for real grief, what is? Dissociation – call it denial if you will – is as human a response as disconnecting your awareness awaiting, open-mouthed, the first incursions of your dentist. Checking out.
Are we just spinning our wheels? I think not. And in thinking not, I want to affirm the worth of creation – and you in it. As a Christian, I am this time of year entranced by the events around Easter. (“What did you give up for Lent this year?” “Oh, everything.”)
And while much is made of the cross and atonement and such, I’ll leave that for wiser heads. I’m fascinated by the bookend events: On one side is Pilate, the powerful governor asking Jesus-in-chains, “What is truth?” Entitled Pilate asks it with the dismissive confidence of one who has heard it all before. Jesus, of course, says nothing.
On the other side of the cross is an empty tomb. And, while part of the story is Resurrection, just as big a part is the simple assertion that whatever you thought you knew. Whatever was obvious. Whatever goes without saying. It isn’t the end of the story. It isn’t all.
“As I sit with all of this, I have found my focus for contemplative prayer this week, Kay Ryan’s poem “The Niagara River”, to be helpful. I offer it to you as well:
The Niagara River
By Kay Ryan
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
As it moves along,
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Dr. Mona West
Often the word “virtual” is contrasted with the idea of “in person.” A lot of virtual activity is taking place these days with the social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. People who observe Holy Week, Sunday, April 5 through Sunday, April 11 this year will need to find ways to do that “virtually” because churches are not holding services “in person”. Many churches will be live streaming Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services so that people who want to journey with like-minded pilgrims can do so.
When you think about it, all Holy Week services, in the history of the Christian Church have been virtual. Christians have re-enacted the events of those weeks, entering into their transformative power, without having been there “in person.”
Holy Week invites us deeply into the rhythm of transformation and these are some ways we at Eremos can make this journey together:
- Make an altar in your home or in your yard and place something on it each day of the week as a sign of your intention for that day. As the week progresses, notice how each object relates to the other, creating a story of transformation.
- Reflect on themes of transformation that arise for you from the events of the week as told in the Christian tradition. Focus on a particular theme for each day and spend time journaling about it, creating art, or spending time in quiet reflection.
- In your home, or in your yard, create “stations of transformation” and spend time at one or all of them throughout each day of the week.
May the journeys we make toward Easter remind us that Divine Love has been let loose in the world and that all of creation is animated by it!
And, whatever your faith tradition, we invite you to pause at Noon every day through Holy Week, beginning this Sunday, April 5th, for five minutes of silence. You’re invited to read silently or express verbally this beautiful prayer for the world (you can also find a musical rendition of it on the internet):
May We Dwell in the Heart by Robert Gass
May I dwell in the heart
May I be free of suffering
May I be healed
May I be whole
May I be at peace
May all beings dwell in the heart
May all be free of suffering
May all beings heal in the heart
May we all be at peace
May you dwell in the heart
May you be free of suffering
May you be healed
May you be whole
May you be at peace
May all beings dwell in the heart
May all be free of suffering
May all beings heal in the heart
May we all be at peace
May we all come together virtually to offer hope and healing to all hearts, minds, and souls. Thank you for being part of our contemplative community without walls.
Guest Blog Post by Rev. Dr. Mona West
During this time of “sheltering in place” amidst the spread of Covid-19 I have been reminded of a phrase from ABBA Moses. He said, “your cell will teach you everything.” I learned that first hand when I spent a week at a monastery some years ago with no cell phone coverage and internet. Instead of leaving the world behind, I was faced with all the fears and judgements that came along with me to the monastery!
While many of us have access to virtual gatherings and internet services while we social distance to flatten the curve of this pandemic, there is still, I believe, an invitation to let our ‘cells at home’ teach us everything. That is what solitude and contemplation are all about—not an escape from the world or ourselves, but being grounded in the midst of it.
I had a profound awareness of this last week as I was using a favorite meditation app during my morning prayer time. The app had a flat graphic of the world with little dots clustered in various geographic locations indicating where in the world people were meditating. At that time there were seven thousand of us. As I moved into my time of meditation, I visualized that map of contemplation overlaying the maps I had seen with clusters of the corona virus outbreak. I felt part of a great web of people who were wrapping the world in compassion and peace.
In the days ahead, as we pause for those contemplative moments in our own lives, may we know that we are connected to this great web, “shaking, changing forever, forming, transforming.”
Web, by Denise Levertov
Intricate and untraceable
weaving and interweaving,
dark strand with light:
all spidery contrivance,
to link, not to entrap;
Elation, grief, joy, contrition,
shaking, changing forever
All praise, all praise to the great web.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
― Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich wrote these words at the beginning of the 15th century, in a world that had been decimated by the Black Plague. She offers us these simple words of hope when everything seems to be crashing around us. We will get through this particular passage. Panic is not needed. Instead, it is time for a calm head and a warm heart. And regular hand washing and doing what is best for our public health. Being cautious is not an act of fear, but one of responsibility. As a community, we can help each other.
Get good information. Don’t rely solely on social media or what someone else tells you. Find good information sources. If you do go to social media, consume it in small doses. Social media feeds on our fear and anger, plus there is a lot of misinformation too. Smart people around the world are working on this.
Some of the best things to do are exercise, eat nutritious food, sleep well, read and practice a lot of silence. Another perspective would be to embrace this opportunity to become more comfortable with the gifts that silence and solitude have to offer. Return to your spiritual practice. It is almost always best not to immediately react to your emotions. And your emotions are in a heightened state! Stop and take time to breathe. Get social support, go for walks with friends, talk on the phone and live in today. Hold your plans and schedule lightly. Practice gratitude. Find small beauties that make you happy and take time to enjoy them. I see the flowers pictured above in my front yard daily. I’ve begun a practice of taking the time to stop and notice.
Hope, trust, support, silence, breath, beauty–practice something other than fear.
Earlier this month, fifteen women gathered at the Cedarbrake retreat center in Belton, Texas. For several days, we sought silence, community and took time to listen for the quiet voice of God. There was stark beauty in the rugged trees without leaves, interspersed with the ever green of cedars. Birds sang and were clearly visible on the branches. The Texas countryside provided cliffs to peer over and bubbling streams to find at the bottom of the canyon.
Many of us brought deep sadness about the state of our country and our world to the weekend. We enjoyed the refuge offered and sought understanding about how to navigate the fights that seem to be always at the forefront of the daily news.
Rather than withdraw from the darkness, we spoke of “holding the space” and offering love. We recognized and drew comfort from this realization that the love we were holding somehow beneficially changes the world around us. We will not be over-run, neither will we meet opposition with more opposition. We will hold the love.
Richard Rohr speaks to this in his book The Universal Christ.
God has worked anonymously since the very beginning—it has always been an inside and secret sort of job.
The Spirit seems to work best underground. When aboveground, humans start fighting about it.
You can call this grace, the indwelling Holy Spirit, or just evolution toward union (which we call “love”). God is not in competition with anybody, but only in deep-time cooperation with everybody who loves (Romans 8:28). Whenever we place one caring foot forward, God uses it, sustains it, and blesses it. Our impulse does not need to wear the name of religion at all.
Love is the energy that sustains the universe, moving us toward a future of resurrection. We do not even need to call it love or God or resurrection for its work to be done.
Eremos continually asks the question, “What is mine to do?” We are called to hold the space for love in our world today. There is power in that. Being together at Cedarbrake, sitting in silence with the community while holding all the pain of the world around us in love, we tapped into this power and are taking it into our daily experience. You can do the same wherever you are. We can all be part of the work of love.
Since last fall, excitement has been building for our 2020 program year featuring the theme of INTERSPIRITUALITY AND COMPASSION FOR SELF, OTHER, AND EARTH. The January workshop on Interspiritual Chant was a great way to begin. Eremos Board member, Rev. Dr. Mona West, led us through a morning of chanting with material from several different spiritual traditions. The ritual of singing together is part of many expressions of spiritual deepening.
Each of us came with varying levels of experience with chant and comfort using our voices. No matter where we began, the unity of our voices was a powerful experience for all. And, of course, with this being an Eremos event, Mona wove in extended time for reflection during the morning.
Those of us who were privileged to attend came away refreshed, relaxed, inspired, and with a new appreciation of how accessible this form of contemplation can be. I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and take advantage of any opportunities to chant in community or ‘sing’ along with a chant recording.
One of those who attended, Mary, was so nourished and inspired by the experience and time for reflection she created a poem that expresses the gift of joy that we all received. She has given us permission to share it with you. Enjoy!
I hope to see you soon at one of the many deep offerings we have in the coming months.
The Dance of My Whole Self
–by Mary Davidson January 21, 2020
Connection. Compassion. Clarity.
Body, mind and Spirit. Heart and soul.
Toes, heels, soles of my feet touching Mother Earth.
Her blessings rising up through my legs, hips and into the pelvic bowl.
Blood circulating, as heart is beating, pumping.
The heart overflows with love for Mother Earth, Self, and others everywhere
Even those gone before
And those yet to be!
Breathing in. Breathing out. Air shared by all beings.
Nerves alive with connections.
This is the dance of my whole self.
All the senses alive!
Feeling the joy of movement, cool air and sweat on my skin
Seeing trees, sky, fellow dancers around me, spinning as I twirl and step
Smelling fresh air, greenery, the moisture in the air
Tasting the deliciousness of exhilaration
Hearing the pulse of my inner music, as it moves me.
This is the dance of my whole self!
The torso swivels, spiraling slowly.
Arms reaching out and up, like tree branches
extending towards sun, planets and stars.
Lowering myself, I roll on Mother Earth.
Kneeling, I bow to my sisters and brothers on this planet.
Rising, I lift my voice in song, a clear melody of Life.
A song of celebration, grief and gratitude!
This is the dance of my whole self.
Clarity in voice and vision.
Unity with all in One! Life! Love!
The dance of the Whole!
Prompt: What is the dance of your Whole Self?
This reflection question was posed after reading “The Whole Self,” a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye at The Interspiritual Chant workshop with Eremos on January 18, 2020. The poem starts with three lines from The Hokey Pokey: “You put your whole self in. You put your whole self out; You put your whole self in and you shake it all about.”
The Winter Solstice has passed and the days ahead will gradually gain minutes of daylight. The longest night of the year has come and gone, once more. The solstice occurs in the same week as Christmas Day, celebrated by Christians as the birth of Jesus, the Christ Light coming into the world and in the same month as Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. These celebrations with friends and family remind us of the Light in the midst of the darkness.
We’ve been on this journey around the sun before, just as many have celebrated the Light many times. Each year of turning towards the Light gives us an opportunity to renew our hope and faith in the possibilities this Light and this Love brings.
Of course, darkness has not been banished from our days and lives. With the grey days of January and February ahead, we know there will be long stretches of cold and darkness when it seems that Spring will never come. In those dark times, we wonder where that Light is. Where is the assurance of God’s Love?
As I sit with people in Spiritual Direction, hearing of the anguish of feeling directionless, listening as they wonder where God is in this, feeling the darkness, the invitation comes to sit and wait, knowing that God is a loving God, even in the darkness of the uncertainty. Each time, God’s call is to wait patiently in the darkness with hope and faith.
What can sustain you in times of darkness? Seek out a way to sit with God, even when it seems unrewarded. Sit in silence. Take a walk. Find a community. Build relationships that can strengthen you when the darkness seems unending.
We know the return of the Light happens, even when we can’t see or feel it. In dark, lonely times, it becomes important to be in a community who knows this truth, a community that can encourage and inspire, even in the darkness. Join us in one of the many Eremos events that hold this Light, even in the Darkness. We will come together in January to Chant with Rev. Mona West, to lift our voices and spirits. Will you join us as we turn to the light?