Images of a Retreat

Richard Rohr says, “To be a contemplative is to trust deep time.”

I spent last week on a silent personally directed retreat at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio. I’m still processing and ruminating with my experience but wanted to share a few musings since I haven’t written in a while.

I try to do at least one week long retreat a year. I try to trust deep time and I long for it. While I set aside a day each month for extended prayer and reflection, I always look forward to a week of solitude and prayer away from the busy-ness and noise of daily life.

I spent this retreat in silence and met with a spiritual director daily. I believe my years of Zen practice make me more sensitive to sound so, a slam of a door and a clank of a spoon on a coffee cup seemed so intrusive into my silence. But, I leaned in to it, smiled and affirmed the silence within myself. Silence is not always about no sound. It’s our relationship with sound that matters.

We also used the SoulCollage® https://www.soulcollage.com/ process to delve deeper into our souls and spirits. The process of discovering images and doing a “mash up” of various images in prayer and reflection helped me to go deeper into my spirituality and bring that to spiritual direction each day.

I was fundamentally changed by the grace of this retreat. I allowed myself to fully enter into a slower pace and to trust the deep time. OLPRC is truly beautiful and is full of pine trees, oak, maple, sycamore, and others along with deer, raccoons and hawks and more. It rained several days and I managed to find a cozy chair to read or solitude in the intimate chapel for prayer.

I asked for a deeper relationship with the Divine and I set an intention to breath slowly, to walk contemplatively and to relax into the Love of the Universe. I tend to be one who is most comfortable in the world of thoughts and of the mind. I deliberately chose a retreat where mind could sink into the world of intuition and heart. SoulCollage® paved the way for me to live in the world of heart and spirit for a week.

I re-discovered we are Loved by the Divine by whatever name you like. It may be the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as that symbol which lets you feel in your heart, you soul, your very essence that you are loved. It may be the chittering of baby raccoons and their mama that lets you hear the love of the Creator. It may be the image of a silhouette of a couple in a cosmic starfield gazing for eternity into each other’s eyes that lets you see Love. Whatever your image, sit with it. And sit with it some more. Feel your breath move in and out of your body. Feel that breath down in your diaphragm. Rest there. Live there. Love there.

I recommend SoulCollage®. I recommend a silent retreat. I recommend Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center https://www.pinesretreat.org/ I highly encourage you to pause – daily – for at least 10 minutes and breathe. Breathe in Divine Love. Feel it in your heart. Feel it all the way to your toes. Know deep inside you are Loved.

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. 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.)

Baseball and Mom

“Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand.” – Leo Durocher

In the past month or so, I’ve attended a number of high school baseball games – a continuation of something my mother and I did together for several years. I’d pick her up at the retirement home and I’d drive her to high school baseball games where she once was scorekeeper and sometimes trainer. In later years, when she put down the paper scorebook and athletic tape, she was present and dispensed baseball knowledge to any player or coach who’d listen. And she knew what she was talking about.

Mom

She grew up on baseball. My grandfather, a coach at University of Cincinnati in 1951, Reds Scout, and manager of a semipro team in Cincinnati, took my mother with him into that world. She attended a high school in Cincinnati which graduated players like Chuck and Ed Brinkman, Dick Drott, Art Mahaffey, Clyde Vollmer, Russ Nixon, Don Zimmer and Pete Rose.

John Beckel, Jr. – my grandpa

My mother’s love of baseball was a constant through her life. Friends came and went. My father died. She always returned to baseball. Through the last years of her life and on her last day on this earth it was baseball. It was her passion and her love. She loved our local major league team, the Reds, yet her great joy was watching a local high school team and sitting on the bench with them. Her love for her father was connected to her love for the game.

It’s pretty much the same for me. Memories of my mother is tied mostly to baseball. This time of year is a time of new life with flowers blooming and trees budding and yet for me, it is a time when I am reminded at every high school game I attend or every game I watch on TV that my mother is not physically with me. Mom waited eagerly waited for spring. Rogers Hornsby once said “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” This pretty much sums up my mother.

I can’t quite tell the story about the day she died without choking back tears. I’ve gotten pretty good at telling the facts so here they are: we listened to the high school state championship game on the radio. Our team did not win. Her favorite player came up to see her after the game. Twenty minutes after he and his family left her room, she took her last breath. It was as if the season had ended and it was time to put the tarp on the field and go home. We buried her with a baseball in her hand. We established a memorial fund in her honor – the Angel in the Dugout Fund.

Mom wasn’t much on faith and religion but I know she was spiritual. She believed certain things with all her heart. The baseball field was a sacred place whether it was a major league cathedral or a little league dirt field. Players had to have respect for the game and play with passion. Players should have guts and want to win. The team with the most talent doesn’t always win. It’s the team that wants it more. She was “old school” how she believed the game should be played – no bat flips or showing up the pitcher or the next time the pitcher would put a ball in your ribs! Sacrifice bunts, suicide squeeze plays and base hits up the middle were more exciting that homeruns. Hits were earned. Never act like you’ve never won or scored a run before. Treat the bat boy, equipment manager or ground crew the same as you would the star player.

Here’s the thing about grief. There is no wrong way to grieve and there is no right way to grieve When grieving gets in the way of your being able to function in daily life it’s time to seek support and help. I still grieve. I still cry. Sometimes I can feel her presence at the ball park in the crack of a bat, or the chatter of the boys as they take infield. Sometimes I hold a baseball knowing that she holds one in her final resting place. While I know there is no right or wrong way to sit with grief, it can be quite a struggle at times.

But I’m okay. It’s like I’m taking my turn at bat and I keep fouling off pitches until I get a base hit up the middle or on really good days, it’s a home run over the center field wall. On other days, it feels like I’m pitching well and I’ve got a shut out going in the 9th inning and the batter hits a dinger into the left field seats. Grief kind of sneaks up on me like that hitter in the 9th. I’ve learned that I have to let go of that moment and move on because I can’t replay that play of the ball game. I can’t go back and undo or redo anything but I can learn and grow and move through grief with awareness that I am not alone.

Blessings,

Christy

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. 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.)

Live you best life. Experience awe.

Do you know where you will be five years from April 8th? I’ve already made plans and perhaps others will join me in my yard that day. The next total solar eclipse in the United States will occur April 8, 2024. The path of totality will come very close to the Cincinnati area and the duration of the eclipse will be longer than the 2017 eclipse by about a minute and a half (4:00 total near the centerline in Indiana). Yes, I plan to be there.

In August, 2017, I dared to travel the highways and byways of Kentucky and drove 4 hours to the south with a companion to experience the totality of an eclipse. I didn’t have a smart phone or a DSLR camera. I hadn’t had cataract surgery at that point either. I had my eclipse glasses though but what I saw that day was not as memorable as what I felt.

I felt awe. Awe at the wonderous and miraculous machine of the universe. The dance of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. A night without a day and a day without a night. I experienced a connection with complete strangers all gathered to witness something we had no control over. We came together from all over the US – all races, genders, ages, political and social economic backgrounds – to bear witness to the wonder of the Universe.

Did you see that eclipse or any eclipse? Have you felt awed?
Maybe you’ve felt it standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. (My husband didn’t but that’s another story about a farmer viewing an out of control erosion problem! Maybe you felt it on a summer night away from city light pollution and saw “billions and billions” of stars in the night sky. Or maybe you feel it when you looked into the eyes of your newborn child. Maybe you felt it observing an athletic event or a particularly gifted player. Some of my most awe inspiring moments are baseball moments, sunsets on our farm, observing the new buds on the trees, daffodils in spring, and star gazing in Pine Key State Park in Florida.

Psychologists and neuroscientists who study awe define it as the emotion we feel in response to something vast that defies our existing frame of reference in one area or another, and leads us to change our perception of that frame of reference. The feeling of awe changes us and makes us see ourselves as a small piece of something larger. Feeling small makes us feel humble and that makes us want to engage with others and feel more connected to them. According to evolutionary scientists, that feeling of connection to others is the reason over the course of human history humanity has formed groups, societies, and lived collectively. Scientists say experiencing awe helps us to live a better happier lives. I believe that larger thing we experience is the Divine. The Divine is in the ordinary and extraordinary and it is holy.

If you want to experience awe and the holy I’d suggest the following: 1) Be nature. Most people say be IN nature. I believe we ARE part of nature yet we need to be encouraged to BE it. Walk. Sit. Breathe. Repeat. 2) Visit somewhere in your area or town or city you’ve never been. Take a moment and simply observe. Notice the trees and flowers. 3) Read a biography of someone who inspires you. 4) Put down your phone and look UP. See the clouds, blue sky, sun, moon and stars. Experience the real world in 3-D! 5) Engage with the world with a more open mind, see possibilities, ask questions, and look for the impossible.

Let me know what you find awe inspiring!

Blessings,

Christy

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. 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.)

Letting Go and Moving On . . .

You can’t get to second base by leaving your foot on first. It’s a fact ball players learn and relearn time and time again. You can’t leave your feet firmly planted on first base. You have to lead off carefully gauging how far you can go without getting picked off. Leading off makes you feel vulnerable and exposed. Progress involves risk. To advance and try to “get home” you have to leave the safety of first base.

It’s like that in the spiritual life. Somehow we manage to advance and find ourselves in a safe place. We’re doing it. With grace, we’ve deepened our prayer, noticed the glory of Creation in nature, or feel a little less alone in the Universe. We’ve gotten to that place and stage where The Mystery is personal and meaningful in a deeper way. We’ve done the work, had a good at bat and now find ourselves at a safe place. For a baserunner, second base is only 90 feet away. For spiritual “runners” the next stage or step seems so much farther. We want to grow and evolve and become who we are called to be yet we don’t want to let go of the security of where we are and what we know.

As I write this, it’s a typical rainy day with mud and muck everywhere. Today’s high school game was cancelled due to rain. Saturday’s opening was a different story. It was a day of sunshine and a win for my favorite team. They played on a turf field at a local college (see photo above). My mom would have loved it. The start of the baseball season is bittersweet. I miss her and feel the closest to her when baseball starts for the local high school team she used to keep score for many years. Saturday was a good day – sunshine and baseball.

Prior to the start of the game, I reflected on those feelings and as I looked on the turf field prior to the game, I had an amazing view looking at first to second base. I’m not sure where I heard or read the saying you can’t get to second by standing on first however, it occurred to me that to move on, to grow and develop spiritually, psychologically and to evolve as a human person, I have to step off first, take a lead and let go of the safety and security of what I know. I have to be willing to run toward something I don’t know yet, haven’t seen and can’t even completely understand.

Liminal space or liminal time is that space and time in between things.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.

I’ll say that again – If we learn to wait and let it form us. If we are patient, and if we let go and surrender to the space and time “in between” things. If we are willing to leave the security and safety of first base, we can advance to second and then to third and eventually home.

Questions for reflection: What is holding you on your first base? What do you want to advance toward but are afraid to let go of to get there? What feelings rise up when you imagine letting go of the safety and security of where you are? How do you pray with feelings of vulnerability and exposure? What needs to be transformed in you? Have you experienced liminal space before in your life? Who or what helped you to move on?

Blessings always my friends,

Christy

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. 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.)

Serenity prayer: . . . and the wisdom to know the difference

A mighty oak

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:6-7

“Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and chose the path that leads to wisdom.” – Buddha

Do you seek wisdom? I do – at least I give it the all American college effort. I often ask what is wisdom. How will I know when I am wise? Will people seek my counsel especially those younger than me? Will I eventually know everything about everything? What is wisdom and how do we know we have it?

I often share this story with young people. When I was 18 years old, I thought my father was by far, the dumbest man on the planet. I mean he knew nothing about life and being 18. I, of course, knew EVERYTHING at the age of 18 and shared it often with my father. But, by the time I turned 21, he had learned so much! Seriously though, my father had a quiet way about him and I was never quite sure what he was thinking but I knew he was one smart cookie. He was educated well in an all boys Jesuit high school in the 1930s. He received the equivalent of a college prep/honors education which included two years of Greek, four years of Latin, calculus, college level English, and physics. The man could add, multiply and divide columns of numbers in his head which served to distance us further when I brought home “new math” homework which I didn’t understand and neither did he.

My father died at the age of 66 when I was 27. There was a significant age difference between him and my mother that in some ways may have contributed to the distance I felt. I feel I was just starting to get to know him as a person. If you’ve experienced it, you know it’s that point when you realize your parents are just two human beings trying to do the best they can – just like you. You see them as real. Maybe that is the beginning of wisdom – being able to see parents, teachers and adults you thought were superheroes as fellow human beings on this big blue ball in space who are trying to make sense of it all like you. It’s taking me years to understand what was evolving in my late 20’s. Maybe that is wisdom.

Maybe wisdom is not a magical mystical “thing” I’ll acquire when I get old. I ask for wisdom in my prayer “Divine Mystery, help me to know the difference between those things I can’t change and those things I can”. I’ve blogged previously about the parts of the prayer – accepting what I cannot change https://listening-heart.com/2019/01/12/the-serenity-prayer-accepting-what-i-cannot-change/ and changing what I can https://listening-heart.com/2019/02/02/the-serenity-prayer-changing-what-i-can/ Now I pray for wisdom. I ask for that insight, that knowledge, that knowing in my heart.

What is wisdom? The Greek word is sophia, a feminine noun. I like the idea of wisdom having more feminine qualities. In my prayer, I invite Sophia into my mind and heart and into my space of reflection and meditation. She teaches me and helps me grow in understanding. She nurtures me as a mother nurtures a child. Sometimes her lessons are not easy. I stumble and skin my emotional knee and her “tsk-tsk” shames me but Sophia is there to pick me up and urge me to do better. With her gentleness and compassion I am invited again and again to choose her way – the Wisdom Way.

Earthenware from area of the Dead Sea scrolls

Here are some questions you may wish to sit in meditation with, write about or be creative with (drawing, painting, collage, etc.) What is wisdom? What does it mean to be wise? Where do you find wisdom? Who are your wisdom figures and wisdom teachers? Do you believe you are wise? How do you seek wisdom? What is your prayer for wisdom?

 Where do you find yourself calling upon Sophia? How do you choose wisdom? For what do you long for and seek when you call upon Sophia/Wisdom? Search your current life situation. Where is it that you most need Sophia’s guidance?

Blessings always. Peace and all good,

Christy

(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or your faith community or small group would like to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. 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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