Narcissism or Humility?

Since the inauguration of the new president a few days ago, I’ve been sorting out what Benedictive values have to say about this time. As part of my spiritual practice, I’ve been reading Sr. Joan Chittister’s Book, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. This book divides the Rule into daily sections and provides Sr. Joan’s commentary on each section. Today’s section is about having a “humble spirit.”

“If the modern age has lost anything that needs to be rediscovered, if the Western world has denied anything that needs to be owned, if individuals have rejected anything that needs to be professed again, if the preservation of the globe in the twenty-first century requires anything of the past at all, it may well be the commitment of the Rule of Benedict to humility.”

Humility is not often considered to be a necessary virtue in our culture at this time. In fact, we are more likely to applaud and reward self-serving, self-promoting and self-aggrandizing behavior. Yet, humility is essential if humanity is to survive in the long-term. Humility means to have a sense of limits and is, as Sr. Joan writes, “the basis for right relationships in life.” We must recognize how we are connected in this world, where we come from, to whom we owe respect.

In the great story of our planet, humanity itself is just a little blip at the very end of this edge of time. In the book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone provide a graphic that puts all of earth time into one day. Each hour of the day represents 187.5 million years, and humanity only appears on earth in the last 5 seconds of the last hour. We are barely begun, and yet, in our arrogance we ignore the peril we have put ourselves in, and thereby threaten almost all life on earth with extinction. The nuclear weapons, global warming, extinction of pollinators, poisoning of air, soil and water are all very real dangers. How these dangers may interact, we do not know.

Humility acknowledges that we do not know. Humility is far-seeing, looking towards the seventh generation to come, acting for its benefit. Humility does not act for immediate gain now. Humility recognizes that whenever we act only for self, only for right now, only within partisan interests, we all lose. As, Sr. Joan writes, “Winning, owning, having, consuming, and controlling are not the high posts of the spiritual life. And this is the basis for social revolution in the modern world.”

I believe that we desperately need a social revolution, as well as a spiritual revolution in our world. And we need it to be soon. To that end, I am doubling down on my spiritual practice, as are many others I know. I am trying to conserve where I can, to lessen some of the impacts of my living in a consumer culture. I am studying and learning about nonviolence and social/political organizing. And, I am acknowledging that these efforts are tiny, so encourage anyone who reads this to write in the comments what you are doing, so that we can learn from each other, and cheer each other on, encourage each other to keep going.humility-7

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Living a Life of Balance in Dark Times

In 2015 after my husband died in June, I had to confront the question of what I would do without him, who I would even be when our relationship had irrevocably changed, and he was no longer present. For over 26 years, most of my decisions about my life had necessarily taken him into account. Now, that was not the case. There was a loosening of what had anchored me in life for all those years. What now would be my anchorhold?

Having been a member of a peer group for spiritual directors for many years, and a reading group that had been meeting for a couple of years, there were a number of wonderful women who held my questions with me, with whom I could explore. It became clear that spiritual life was to be the main focus for me over the next years of my life.

For years I had been seeking greater growth in the spiritual dimension; fueled by an ever greater yearning within. During the months after Jim died, it became clear that I now had every opportunity to pursue an even deeper spiritual life. The spiritually kindred women in the peer and reading groups were kind and supportive. They provided me with space to explore what that might look like. At the same time, it was also going to be necessary to move from Joy Farm, my home of 27 years, because I could not maintain it as a single person. It seemed best to leave the Eau Claire area and move closer to family in the Madison area and Chicago. That would put me in proximity to Holy Wisdom Monastery*, an ecumenical Benedictine women’s monastery  near Middleton, Wisconsin. I had attended retreats and conferences there over the years and had loved the atmosphere of the place for some time.

Through the years I had been fascinated with religious life, in fact, I had done some digging into information about programs that connected people to religious community even though separated by distance. At different times over the years, friends would tell me about being an oblate, or associate or member of a “third order.” I knew that Holy Wisdom had an oblate community and I was now in a position to look at what would be needed for me to become an oblate. So, in early 2016 I applied for a year of discernment about becoming an oblate – and was accepted as an oblate candidate. The year of discernment gives the candidate time and experience in ordering one’s life within a Benedictive community framework. This year of discernment involves learning about the framework of Benedictine life and values and practicing a rhythm of intention, mindfulness and balance before making a commitment to be an oblate. At Holy Wisdom the oblate candidate writes their own personal rule and makes promises to the community. After one is welcomed as an Oblate, these are renewed on a year by year basis. I became an Oblate Candidate, April of 2016.

Since then, it has been a time of intensity both internally for me and also in the external world. The election season has had a profound effect on public life, and many of us have struggled with the results. In a very few days, we will have a new president of our nation whose actions and statements challenge notions of intentionality, balance and stability. Never has it seemed so important to me to cling to and real-ize the values of Benedictine life. These values have in-formed people, men and women, lay and religious, over a period of one thousand years. They have provided guidance, strength and purpose during times of great darkness and have illumined the hearts and minds of those who seek to help and heal, to restore the broken, and to create, connect, and sustain the “beloved community” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. named it.

Over the next few posts, I will be examining some Benedictine values and pointing toward how they may help me and others of us to stay grounded and stable, hopeful and active in these times.

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*For more information about Holy Wisdom Monastery, see http://benedictinewomen.org/

Re-Configuring: 2016

It has been many months since writing on this blog. Much has changed. My practice of spiritual direction and professional counseling is in transition. I have moved to Dane County, Wisconsin and am exploring options. I’ve from my previous residence at Joy Farm in Chippewa County to JoyCondo in Verona in Dane County.

My intent in reconfiguring this blog is to examine some psychological and spiritual dimensions and directions that will eventually form the core of a new blended practice of spiritual direction and life counseling. We live in interesting times when spiritual and psychological challenges, as well as opportunities, abound.

There is much opportunity to become distracted, to be attracted to too many options that cannot all be taken up or engaged in. We have exposure to multitudes of voices urging us in directions that cannot all be taken. Contradictions about what is true, real, healthy, abound. Staying centered yet open is challenging for many of us.

1-bluemarble_westFor the next several months I will be exploring mindfulness; cultivating happiness and joy; and seeking out spiritual  wisdom. I want to discern more about the trajectory of change for persons seeking to become fully awake in the world as it is now. This means also engaging in and discussing spiritual habits, the bones of spiritual life. It means reflecting as deeply as possible on what makes for a good life in the communities of which we are a part, and how we are one connected humanity on this one small blue, green, brown, and white planet.

SoulCollage® Readings

In preparation for the new SoulCollage® workshops, I’ve been working with my own cards. From September 1st through the 11th I will be drawing on card a day and doing a reading. It has been an amazing experience so far. Somehow, doing this more intentionally and over several days in a row is having much more of an impact on me. For example, yesterday I drew the card I call my Kwan Yin card. Due to copyright issues, I cannot reproduce it here, but I can give you what came to me. The I am the One Who exercise resulted in this: “I am one who is infinitely compassionate. I am Kwan Yin, mother of all mercies. I walk in serenity and beauty. Come, walk with me.”

The message Kwan Yin had for me/us was this: “When you are sad, tired, hurting, come to me. My serenity will enfold you and comfort you. When you are troubled by the sorrows of the world, its pain, walk with me, borrow from my vast compassion. Then let my lovingkindness fill you and inspire you to compassionate action.” This means a lot to me, especially given what is going on in the world right now, wars, disease outbreaks, strange weather and on and on. This merciful mother goddess made herself heard. 

I hope the workshop on September 12th will provide an opportunity for more beings/neters/energies – in this case chakra companions – to speak their wisdom, compassion and vitality to all of us who are making and sharing cards and doing readings with them.

Here is a photo of a small Kwan Yin statue I have, in lieu of showing you her SoulCollage® card from my deck.

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New SoulCollage® Workshops!

I’ve scheduled several SoulCollage® Workshops over the next few months. Each one will meet for three hours on a Friday afternoon from 2:30-5:30 at The Center in the Art Space. Registration is required because space is limited. The first workshop will be held on Friday, September 12, 2014. It is about “Animal Companions and the Chakras.”

Seena Frost, who created SoulCollage®, found herself making cards featuring animals. As she explored these cards for herself, she learned that the energies of these “companions” resonated with her own energy centers (chakras). She determined that nature’s energies embodied in animals companion us and reside in our own individual chakras. Using Seena Frost’s guided imagery this workshop helps participants discover the animal companion energies that empower them. After the guided imagery, participants intuitively select images and use them to collage 8 x 5 cards. These represent the earthy animal companion aspects of the self/soul. Together participants and facilitator do simple, powerful experiential exercises in which participants give voice to what the card says, they “speak as the card”.  A brief closing allows each card to be honored by all the participants.

Here is one of the first SoulCollage® cards I ever made. I love sandhill cranes and this collage celebrates them and their unique and ancient souls. It is a companion card and its energy is in my heart chakra.

Crane Companion N4LYK

New Home for Soul Focus

On August 1st, Soul Focus will move to The Center at 3701 State Highway 12, Eau Claire, WI 54701. Soul Focus will be with soul companions: a number of different practitioners and modalities for healing of mind, body and spirit. Together we will be a nucleus of a community of spirit, oriented to positivity, healing, growth, as well as fun, laughter and beauty. In this lovely setting and within a community of healers and artists, Soul Focus is inspired to offer new opportunities for your soul’s growth. 

Watch for new announcements in the next weeks. 

Below is a view of the new building. The upper window is one of the windows in the new space.

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