An Invitation to Be

My favorite time of the day is morning. I’ve never really been a morning person per se. It always took quite a bit of effort – and more caffeine – to get going when I didn’t have as much say so over my days and scheduling in the past.

I’m fortunate to be in a position where my days are a bit more leisure. I still use an alarm but it is not set as early as it once was. I’ve learned to appreciate my own body’s rhythms. I still have one cup of coffee sometimes half-caf, sometimes de-caf on alternating days. Too many caffeine laden mornings manifests as my feeling less centered and more anxious. I pay attention to that.

I selfishly guard my mornings. They are times for contemplation, reflection, prayer, for labyrinth walking and a time to be. I crave contemplation and need it like I need to breathe. It is a time to dwell in God space sending forth loving kindness to all beings. Busy mind or monkey mind is present but given a piece of scripture or mantra to contemplate befriends it and it too, settles into solitude and quiet. The Beloved is present inviting me to just be. Be here now. Be present to my breath. Listen. Listen to the sounds of silence. Feel the rhythms of Creation.

On this lovely early autumn Sunday morning as I made my coffee (caffeinated this time), I heard the “eeeeee” of the red tail hawk who co-exists in our woods. She invited me to come and see, come and be. I walked to the back yard. I heard her before I saw her. She flew low over the tree tops calling out to me. “See, see, see”

She took a hard right bank and I had to turn around quickly to follow her, spilling drops of coffee in the process. Another sharp right and she sailed out of sight. I had turned around to face my labyrinth. I heard the invitation. “Come and see. Come and be”

I set down my coffee cup. I walked clockwise around the labyrinth to open it and “warm” it arriving at the opening.  As I stood at the opening, I centered and took a few deep breaths. What do I need to let go of to take the next step for today, for the week, for the next month and so on? What am I invited to release this day?

And so I walked. Slowly. Listening. Feeling a slight breeze hinting cooler temperatures are on the way. I see the golden rays of light illuminating emerging yellow and red leaves. Two shag bark hickory trees and an oak hold space for me bearing witness to my solitary steps. Turn after turn.

That which is Center receives me. I am grateful for the seat my husband made from a stained and polyurethaned log. “Come sit a spell. Receive. Receive Grace, Love, Connection, Peace. Come and just be.” I remain. Doing nothing. Being everything. It is as if I’m being filled like my coffee cup. All being poured out in abundance. Mistakes and errors forgotten. I see. I hear. I sense. I breathe. “All will be well. All manner of things will be well.”

One more millisecond of receiving Goodness and Cosmic Grace and then I step to begin to return. Using the same path to return as I did to walk inward, I leave the center bringing with me a sense of peace, calm, and connection with Creation and Creator.

This is today’s labyrinth walk. Tomorrow’s walk may be different. It probably will be because I will be different. Everyone’s experience of the labyrinth is unique to them. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk the path of the labyrinth.

The last of my coffee is cold sacrificed for the sake of a walk in the labyrinth. No worries! It was worth every last drop.

Journal or Reflection Prompts

What calls you to “just be”? What is your favorite part of the day? Are you in tune with your natural rhythms? If you could change one thing to get closer to your natural rhythm, what might that be?

What contemplative prayer/meditation practices affirm and nourish you? Are you being invited to explore and “play” with other practices?

What do you need to release or let go of to take the next step for today? Tomorrow? This week? This month? For your life?

You can finger “walk” a labyrinth using a paper labyrinth or a lap labyrinth. https://www.relax4life.com/download-paper-finger-labyrinths/

Veriditas Labyrinth trainer Catherine Anderson offers a self guided online workshop to create a 12”x12” collage labyrinth which you can walk using your fingertips.  https://vimeo.com/159389186 I am in the process of creating my own collage labyrinth.

Shake the Dust

For the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on passage from the Christian scriptures that came up as I walked the labyrinth in my backyard. The words tumbled and skittered around in my mind for a while and I’ve contemplated them for quite some time, reflecting on their meaning for me at this juncture. Perhaps it is the physical prayer of walking and turning or maybe it’s an urging, a sense of growing beyond confines I’ve imposed on my life. Perhaps it is the process of releasing, receiving and returning when walking.

As you’ve probably recognized, my spirituality is nourished from a variety of sources and traditions. From time to time, I return to my roots in Christian theology and scripture in which I formally and earned two college degrees.

What is that I’m being asked to release, to let go of, to abandon and shake the dust from my feet and move on? How to we let go of what we know and reach for what is unknown?

The words which arose for me while walking the labyrinth are from the three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew’s version “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Mt 10:14) Luke writes “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Lk 9:5) and Mark “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mk 6:11) (NIV translation)

A little lectio divina . . . read the passages again . . . and again . . . and again. What does this mean for me today? What am I being asked to release so I can receive and return? What habits, thoughts, or actions am I being asked to “shake” from my being?

We all experience rejection and being unwelcomed for a variety of reasons which we don’t understand. We all encounter situations we are asked to release or “shake” off. It is especially painful when we are forced to let go by being pushed away and rejected. We aren’t heard. Seen. We haven’t been able to be our authentic selves.

It’s hard to let go of relationships and situations where we once felt safe. Situations change. People evolve and grow apart. How are we to respond when we become aware that we aren’t safe any more? What is the wisdom to be learned from continually knocking on a door that remains closed in a place or with an individual which does not want us? What do I need to release, to “shake off” in order to turn the corner, head in another direction and step toward the Center?

It seems “shaking the dust off” from one’s feet was not only symbolic but also quite provocative in Biblical times. When leaving Gentile or non-Jewish towns, Jews who followed the letter of the law would shake the dust from their feet to show their separation and their difference from the Gentiles and Gentile practices. (Anyone who was not Jewish, was deemed a Gentile.) I’m sure it caused some hurt feelings to the townspeople and villagers. And it’s all so dramatic! Taking your shoe and literally shaking dust and dirt from it at the outskirts of town as if to say I’m done with you!

I don’t intend to be that dramatic. But how should anyone respond to a closed door or window, or the ending of a long relationship?

Jesus, who was Jewish, seems to say in this passage disconnect yourself from those who reject you and don’t hear you yet he doesn’t distinguish between Jew or Gentile. Everyone is invited to hear the Good News – Jew and Gentile. Not everyone can hear it or does. But Jesus creates a condition precedent which must be met before He says to disengage from the situation. He tells us – if you’re not welcomed, if they won’t hear, if they won’t listen and so on then and only then, disengage and move on. Thus, giving the people in the town every opportunity to meet hear and receive the gift. Because if they welcomed and heard the followers of Jesus and the Good News, they would receive so much more than shaken dust. Their lives would have been enriched by all the apostles and followers would have offered.

But if they reject you, Jesus seems to say, shake off the rejection, the negativity, the feeling of not being heard, turn away and head toward the Center in a new direction.  

I imagine men – and some women – in leather sandals traveling dusty and rocky roads walking into a town bubbling over with joy of knowing The Prophet who spoke of Light and Grace from an All Loving, non judgmental Creator. They shared their gifts. Brought healing and comfort to those in pain. Deeply listened to those who felt alone and forgotten.

And yet, town officials, merchants, and even the religious leaders rejected them. They were told to leave town. “We don’t want your kind here”, they say. “You preach heresy contrary to the traditions of our faith. You must leave here at once.” Or in some cases, the followers of Jesus were chased out by stones thrown in anger and out of fear.

The labyrinth, for me, is an ancient and rich archetypal symbol of the path of life. We think we are headed in one direction, we see the center and then we encounter a turn which looks like we are now moving away from the center. I imagine that is some of what Jesus’ followers and apostles felt, turning this way and that.

They intimately knew the Center, the beginning and ending point of everything. They longed to share that experience with others. Some in the town were healed, some joined them. Others remained in the town as planted seeds of the great Grace, Love and Light they encountered.

They were rejected and turned away.

Shake the dust from your feet. Leave this place. End this relationship. It’s extremely painful but it’s more painful to remain. Leave a blessing of loving kindness, good wishes, and mercy and move toward people, places and situations where you will be heard, seen and welcomed. Remain open to the possibility of reconciling with those who hurt you.

Journaling questions:

Have there been times in your life when you wanted to share your talents and gifts with your neighborhood, church or community and were rejected? Write what you felt with as much specificity as possible. If words aren’t coming, I invite you to make a collage of images on a 5×8 mat board, index card or manila folder which convey your feelings.

How have you “shaken dust from your feet” and moved beyond situations in which you were not heard or seen? Perhaps this is a question to “ask” of your created image and write the response.

Who are the individuals who accept you and your message of who you are without rejection or conditions? This week send a handwritten note of gratitude to those people.

If you would like to work more with images in your spiritual life, please message me or sign up for one of my virtual SoulCollage® workshops. The next Beginner Workshop is Saturday, September 12, 2020 from 1 PM to 4:30 PM EST. Please visit my events page for more information.  https://listening-heart.com/events/

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting or can be done via Zoom or other virtual platform. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual companioning, group companioning, SoulCollage©, the Labyrinth or Reiki, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual companioning, please contact me to schedule an informational workshop. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for prayers, vibes, positive energy and support.)

Project Labyrinth

Labyrinth b. August 2020

Solvitur Ambulando “It is solved by walking”. This quote is attributed to St. Augustine. Walking prayer. Walking meditation. Peace in every step. I’ve experienced the peace of walking a labyrinth and after attending a Verditas https://www.veriditas.org/ facilitator training workshop in January, 2020, I knew I had to build one in our backyard.

If you’ve attended a workshop or retreat, you’ve probably experienced that burst of energy which follows where you are ready to make changes in lifestyle or begin creating from what you’ve learned. I’m no different. Even though it was still winter, I was ready to start building! Gung ho! Here we go! Let’s do it!

Wait . . . how do I do this? What will I need? Where will I put it? Can I persuade my husband to not only agree to tear up the backyard but to help with the heavy lifting? Should I contract with a landscaper to do it and what will that cost? What kind of materials should I use? So many questions!

In many ways I feel like I birthed this into existence. I carried the intention in my heart for months. It started with a seed of an idea – I knew I was going to bring a labyrinth into existence this year but I wasn’t sure it was going to be in my backyard. Yet, here it is August 11th, the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi and there is a new baby labyrinth blessing my space. Along the way, I participated in an online workshop through Veriditas. Lars Howlett facilitated a 3 day workshop for building temporary labyrinths for labyrinth facilitators. We had “class” online for a couple hours and then we were given “homework”. I learned a great deal about constructing labyrinths and even more about myself.

I learned that sometimes I need to remove my “thinking cap” and trust the process. Relax, I heard that small voice. Just breathe. I also learned that you will eventually use geometry some time in your life and you should remember the difference between radius and circumference!

Giving life to this labyrinth involved quite a bit of labor – back breaking, labored breathing, sweaty labor. At each stage, I documented creating it’s creation by taking photos. We started with a patch of grass and several steps and weeks later, we had the labyrinth in the above photo.

I’ve walked my baby labyrinth a couple times. Because it is a 5 circuit heart of Chartres labyrinth, I’ve quickly learned I need to SLOW DOWN to navigate the turns which is an excellent lesson for my life. Slow down. Breathe. If I don’t take the turns slowly, I become a little dizzy and disoriented. I’ve learned I must navigate what appears to be an abrupt turn with deliberate patience and intentionally or I will become disoriented.

I’ve written elsewhere https://listening-heart.com/labyrinth/ providing some background and information about labyrinths. In a nutshell it is a tool for a sacred experience. It is a container for the Unknowable. As we walk inward, we release and let go of whatever – stress, worry, fear, anger. We enter the center and receive from Source all that is good and holy. We may hear a word or get a feeling. We allow ourselves to relax and just be. We take the same path back out of the center, returning and bringing with us what we received.

When I walk my labyrinth, I know I am not alone. Hundreds of thousands of fellow pilgrims throughout history and currently throughout the world have walked this path. One step at a time.

On evening of August 20th, my ladies group will meet for the first time face to face since the big lock down. We will meet on the back deck, engaging in social distancing and wearing masks. Please join us between 6 PM and 7 PM EST from wherever you are as we bless the labyrinth. Send your healing thoughts, prayers, and energy of Light and Grace.

Now, more than ever, we should walk the labyrinth. We should walk for peace and compassion. We should walk to slow down and breathe. We walk to let go, to receive and to return to a wounded and confusing world. One step at a time. Walk. Release. Receive. Return.

Be well. Be safe. Blessings.

Christy

P.S. For all who embrace Catholic Christian feast days, be blessed on this feast of St. Clare of Assisi. St. Clare wrote to her dear friend Lady Agnus of Prague to gaze upon Jesus, consider him, contemplate him and as one desires, imitate him. What this means to me is to look and see Jesus’ love which surrounds us and consider the events of his short life and what that means for persons of faith. Contemplate and remember the unconditional compassion he had for others, for those on the margins, for the lost and lonely and for those who made mistakes. Remember his great Love and Compassion and keep it in your heart. And if you desire, as you feel called, imitate Jesus in all that you do. Be just and kind and loving. Forgive. Love others. Love yourself and love the Creator by whatever name you call Him/Her.

This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting or can be done via Zoom or other virtual platform. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual companioning, group companioning, SoulCollage©, the Labyrinth or Reiki, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual companioning, please contact me to schedule an informational workshop. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for prayers, vibes, positive energy and support.)

Go gently . . .

I have avoided writing for some time now. I suppose, like most people, I’m fatigued. Zoom fatigued. COVID19 fatigued, Change fatigued. Decision fatigued. Why are you so racist? Fatigued. Wear a mask and avoid people fatigued.

I’m tired. I’m grumpy and if there was a dwarf named angry, I’d be her too!

And I don’t have answers. I only have more and more questions. I seem to lack the energy to pick up those questions, pull them apart and chew on them.

I have lots of opinions based on my critical analysis of what I read and hear. Thinking, analyzing and critiquing are my go tos when I’m fatigued and overwhelmed. And I tend to stay there. I tend to get stuck in the thoughts.

I won’t burden you with my thoughts and opinions about COVID19 or race relations. I’ll refrain from sharing my thoughts and insights. I’m afraid it will only further divide or I will be subject to even great scrutiny or it will sound defensive. I don’t feel right about it right now. Maybe later. For now, I’ll do the work through journaling, SoulCollage, reading and other things.

I think the uncertainty of what to blog in this somewhat public space is that I’m still ruminating with things and I don’t feel completely free to express myself. Simply put – I feel incredibly vulnerable in this space at times.

And alone – I feel alone with my grief, rage, uncertainty, insecurity, and abandonment. In one respect I’m no different from the rest of the humans on the planet, I suppose. I think some are able to consider it less than I do. Yet, I look at my situation and count the many blessings I have. I still have that lingering anxiety and fear. Pema Chodron suggests we lean into fear and anxiety, embrace it with compassion and develop a heart of the bodisattva for ourselves. Jesus teaches to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In a nutshell, it seems we need to show compassion to ourselves, to our wandering minds, to our aching hearts, and even befriend those naysayers in our minds and hearts. The message is – Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Just take a step.

We started the process of creating a labyrinth in our backyard a few weeks ago. There is the practical pieces of how and what materials and laying it out but there is also the spiritual aspect of the construction. Labyrinths have existed for thousands of years and labyrinth is an archetypal a symbol of a journey. At one time, labyrinths graced the floors of cathedrals throughout Europe where pilgrims could walk them symbolizing a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their journey began with taking a first step. The path toward the center is the same path to return.

I sent an intention at the beginning of this process asking for patience, perseverance, hope and above all Grace. Hope that we will complete the construction. Hope that it will provide a place of peace and a walk of peace for me and for those with whom I share it. And Grace for the project.

Go gently. Take one step at a time. Set your daily intention for patience, perseverance, hope and Grace. If I can provide company and companion you on your journey, please reach out. I remind you that you are not alone and in doing so, I remind myself.

Peace and all good. Be well. Be safe. Blessings.

Christy

This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting or can be done via Zoom or other virtual platform. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual companioning, group companioning, SoulCollage©, the Labyrinth or Reiki, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual companioning, please contact me to schedule an informational workshop. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for prayers, vibes, positive energy and support.)

Transition and Liminal Space

Redtail Hawk in flight (c) Christy Wesselman, 2020

It seems Nature is oblivious to the chaos and fear surrounding COVID19 and the violence of the past weeks. I’m envious. I envy Nature’s ability to be above it all and to carry on with the business of being what they are. Songbirds sing without a care. Squirrels scamper and chase one another around the large oak tree in our yard. And redtailed hawks glide on the warm spring air without so much as a wing flap.

It seems a little anti-climactic to say the past several weeks have been extremely difficult. I’ve avoided blogging perhaps because I’ve been sorting through my own thoughts and feelings. I considered several topics and finally abandoned them.

My heart and soul cries out for retreat, reflection and rest. The retreat I planned to attend the second week of June was cancelled due to It. I can’t even bear to name It (COVID19). I was looking forward to 7 days of silence and daily spiritual direction with a director. Seven days of prayer, meditation, walking, SoulCollage card making, prayerfully walking a labyrinth, journaling, reading and even napping. Seven days for rest and spiritual regrouping. “It” took that from me like it took so many things this year.

So many emotions about “It”. So many more about the current state of unrest and discord in our world. I’ve done my fair share of shaking my fist at the Cosmos in anger and frustration feeling overwhelmed and powerless to effectuate a “fix”, to heal deep wounds, or to abate fear. And I’m not likely to join a crowd of people in peaceful protest at this time. (That is a whole other blog about protests, petitions, fighting city hall and so on for another time.)

I heard an inner call this morning to simply stop, pause and take a mini-retreat on the back deck. I stared at a blank page in my journal for a while and began to write without a care for punctuation or spelling. I wrote to get it all out. Most of my journal entries are streams of consciousness with half sentences and random thoughts that would make no sense to a reader. That’s okay. They make sense to me – sort of. I suppose it looks like nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind! It doesn’t matter. I took a writing course in which they told us that the page always listens. My pages got an earful today! They listened.

Friends, I don’t have answers for what is going on in the world today. My gut feeling is that as a culture, a nation and a world we are in a time of transition, a time of liminal space. Think of a door and the part in the middle that is neither on this side of the door or the other side. It’s the part of the doorway which contains the threshold, the space in between. It’s the space of transition, of letting go, of going through, and of welcoming what is not known on the other side.

Human beings are not very good with change. Yet, all of life is constant with change. Change, even if it is good, is still a challenge. Positive change, like the birth of a child, a new job, a new relationship, can be welcomed with joy and also a bit of fear of the unknown. Negative change or the type of change that is not expected or welcomed is also a challenge. Change like diminishment of ability due to aging, the death of a loved one, ending a relationship, or loosing a job are met with fear and apprehension and feeling “stuck”.

I’ve experienced several times of change and liminal space in my life both positive and negative transitions. I have a couple of “go-tos” which help me navigate and find my way through these times. They are the voices of musicians and poets, the writings of saints and mystics and the images of artists and photographers. If you aren’t familiar with Carrie Newcomer, you must acquaint yourself with her https://www.carrienewcomer.com/home Her latest album, The Point of Arrival, contains a song “The Only Way Through Is In” https://youtu.be/oYAtWQB25JY with the line “the only way out is through and the only way through is in”.

We have to keep walking. We have to try to step through the doorway. Sometimes it’s painful as hell to let go of something we loved so much. Walking through liminal space with all the fear and uncertainty and no answers is just too much. We immerse ourselves in the unknowing and the sensation of falling without a net. I believe we are being called to let go of what we know, of old ways of thinking and being and to reach through the doorway to something unknown. We are filled with anticipation and fear and excitement and —- hope. Who and what do we seek to be our guides during this time?

I’ve been in liminal space before and I came through it. It wasn’t easy and there were times when I wasn’t pleasant to be around as I cried, bled and walked through those doorways which seemed much wider than a regular door. I leaned it and I learned. I came out of it with growing edges, some which had been softened. I nurtured and healed with prayer, meditation and healing arts like journaling, SoulCollage, labyrinth, Reiki, and photography. Those healing arts helped me and that is why I became a facilitator for those processes because I know they work in as much as I allow them to work.

God blessed me with wonderful spiritual directors/companions including those individuals in my spiritual direction training program. (I personally prefer the term companion because it seems to be less hierarchical, less top-down.) The word companion, for me, creates a sense of freedom and nonjudgment. There is a dance with the Mystery of Grace from deep listening on her part and honest, vulnerable sharing on my part. A soul friend or companion listens with the heart and somehow through Grace provides what is needed.

I really don’t have fixes or answers to correct the mess. Here are my suggestions for self care during this time of transition: pray, meditate, take walks in nature, avoid numbing out with alcohol or other substances, get a journal and write in it daily if you can starting with things for which you are grateful. Practice the pause even if it is just 5 minutes of noticing your breath. Find a labyrinth near you and walk it – prayerfully. Here is some background about labyrinths and some tips for walking one. https://listening-heart.com/labyrinth/

Create something – a nature collage, sidewalk art, or learn SoulCollage®. I’m offering an online workshop via Zoom on Saturday, July 18, 2020 from 9 AM to Noon

Find yourself a trained spiritual companion who will deeply listen, hold space for you, and journey with you in this liminal space, this time of transition.

Journal Questions: What do you do for self-care during this time? Have you experienced liminal space in the past? What self-care practices have you added during this time? For what are you grateful? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to embrace? Are there specific areas of spiritual growth you desire? What is your vision for the next 6 months, year or 5 years? What wisdom would you give to your younger self 10 years ago to prepare for times like these?

Be well. Be safe. Blessings.

Christy

This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting and can be done via Zoom or FaceTime. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual companioning, group companioning, SoulCollage©, the Labyrinth or Reiki, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual companioning, please contact me to schedule an informational workshop. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for your prayers and support.)

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