Archive for the ‘Women's Circle’ Category

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The Energy Between Us

April 18, 2010

A young woman recently told me she believes God is the energy between two people. Such wisdom and awareness! I appreciated the reminder that I must take responsibility for the energy I give to another.  
 
It isn’t easy. I quite regularly catch myself holding back or feeling competitive when interacting with someone new, as if the person across from me must prove herself trustworthy, before I will “love my neighbor as myself.”
 
The instruction, “So glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:20) helps me in my quest to remain open-hearted in my interactions. When I allow God to course through my whole being – heart, mind, strength, and soul – I am much more able to extend “God-like” energy to others.
 
The yogi Paramahansa Yogananda writes in his mind-opening book, The Yoga of Jesus, “When one actually perceives the Divine Presence in his own soul, he is inspired with love for his neighbor – Jew and Christian, Muslim and Hindu – in the consciousness that one’s true Self and the Selves of all others are equally soul-reflections of the one infinitely lovable God.” (pg. 99)
 
Can I recognize God in another? Would I even try to see God in my enemy? What kind of energy would I create with her if I did? I find it hard enough to be conscious about my energy with those I love – to love them as completely as I would like to love myself. Therein lies the problem. If I love myself conditionally, I will love others the same way. Similarly, the judgment I feel toward others often reflects hostility within me toward myself.
 
In interpreting the gospel writer John’s account of Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman (which a Jewish man at the time would not have done), contemplative priest Cynthia Bourgeault illustrates beautifully what can happen when two people recognize each other as Divine:
 
“Something he sees in her gives him the confidence to be so nakedly vulnerable; and something she sees in him gives her the confidence to follow his lead, to go higher and higher and deeper and deeper in herself, knowing far beyond what she could know from ordinary knowingness, knowing fully in the immediacy of her own heart. This quality of awareness is not something that comes from outside the moment. Rather, it grows up in the moment itself through the quality and energy of the heart connection.” (The Wisdom Jesus, pg. 11)
 
May we all give to each other and experience that kind of God energy.

Peace

April 5, 2010

Of all the devotion, betrayal, strength, fallibility, sadness, and glory I heard and read about during Holy Week, the line that moved me the most was this: “Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.” (The Book of Common Prayer)
 
I’ve written often about doubt and uncertainty on this winding path of mine. It is challenging, at times, to feel lasting peace about earthly matters such as money, love, work, health insurance, family misunderstandings, and social injustice. Yet, in the midst of all or any of those, I’ve come to recognize the kind of peace that is a gift from God – “peace which the world cannot give.”
 
This peace I feel in my body. When the core of me is open, breathing, and calm, my mind feels safe to follow suit. In this state, I trust the peace of the certainty I feel – certainty that it all means something and God is there for me to lean on. It is the deep peace of forgiveness after confessing “things done and left undone.” It is the peace of saying, “Yes, I do believe in this mystery that ‘passes all understanding.'”
 
When watching and participating in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services last week, I had to acknowledge that I believe in what this sacred practice represents. Seeing my clergy dressed in black with their backs turned to the congregation as they prayed was incredibly moving for me. I believe in the underlying story. So I say the words; I sing; I kneel; I eat the spiritual food. On Easter, it sank in deeper.
 
The judgmental, exclusionary, violent, sexist, neighbor-against-neighbor interpretations of Christianity have made me wary of Christianity as a whole. I’m grateful now to be learning a profoundly different take on what Jesus was teaching and to have found an understanding of God’s kingdom that I want to be a part of.
 
My mind still asks, “Am I for real? Is this devotion to and worship of God coming from my heart or my head?” I trust my body when she replies, “Yes. This is real for me. I feel this deeply. It has integrity.” Writing about and saying “Jesus” out loud is, at times, uncomfortable for me, yet being with him in private always feels natural. When I meditate, I invite him to sit with me.  He offers his hands. I take them. This is complete peace for me.
 
What brings you peace? If you’d like to share your own practice, please do so.

Tree Lessons

March 16, 2010
One of my favorite magnolia trees in Richmond was cut down recently. She was an awe-inspiring momma of a tree – larger than the house she sheltered. Her canopy spanned the whole front yard and covered part of the roof. She lived on my street. When I asked a little girl playing on the fresh magnolia sawdust if the tree had been sick, she replied, “No, just old.” 
 
This weekend a friend and I went for a walk through Hollywood Cemetery. Normally, as I amble past the markers of people’s lives, I’m observing dates and calculating the lengths of lives lived. On Saturday, however, the trees consumed my attention – especially the enormous oaks with roots visibly growing out of the stone embankments of the cemetery.
 
I love that trees in winter, especially these grand old trees, feel no need to prove themselves. “Here I am” they seem to say, “naked, proud, and knowing.” Through them, I learn to trust nature’s cycle – even when they look dead, life is simply resting inside, waiting to reemerge.
 
A teacher once told me that the yoga involved in tree pose isn’t necessarily about holding perfect balance. Instead, it is about getting back in the posture with grace, patience and commitment, each time I fall out. 
 
On occasion in my coaching and women’s circle, I ask participants to practice grounding and taking up their rightful space in this world by embodying their favorite tree. They usually look at me a bit sideways. After some gentle coaxing, they set their skepticism aside that this could be at all illuminating. I ask them to feel their roots growing deep into the Earth and their branches reaching wide open, sky high or perhaps, in the case of willow, draping gently and gorgeously. “Breathe as your tree, let the wind and weather move you, feel your strength and your beauty.” Sometimes it works for them in the moment, sometimes not. It always works for me. Becoming a live oak centers me, calms me, and opens my heart.
 
In the brochure “The Method of Centering Prayer: The Prayer of Consent“, Thomas Keating writes, “The principal fruits of centering prayer are experienced in daily life and not during the prayer period.”  I hope that even if women feel a bit silly and self-conscious embodying a tree for three minutes, the effect is felt out in the world – in them and by others. I hope they are reminded of their own dignity, especially in the presence of “their” tree.

Wrestling With It

March 9, 2010

My priest recently told me I didn’t have to be an expert in Christian scripture to begin incorporating it into my writing and workshops when I feel doing so would deepen the experience. He told me to “just get in there and wrestle with it”. His advice came as a huge relief, because I’ve been feeling uneasy about bringing in passages from the Bible – the whole of which I’ve not read. I don’t even fully understand the literal interpretations of what I have read. However, some of its words have been speaking to me at a deeper level and I’m using my weekly writings to work out their meaning in relation to my life and soul.
 
For the past 13 months, I’ve been on a journey with this platform. What started as a marketing tool transformed into an offering. I decided to start giving what I had to give. I believe God asks us to share the resources we have – money, food, inspiration, courage or care – whatever our wealth of the moment may be. The intent of this blog is to share what is opening my mind, body and spirit, in case something I’ve experienced could be of value to your heart. And vice versa: for you to share your wisdom and questioning with me.
 
Because God has played a central role in every significant growth period of my life, I want to acknowledge what I believe is the golden ticket to personal and spiritual development. I’d like to explore not only my understanding of God, but yours as well.
 
I’m scared, though. I’m afraid you (and my family) will think I’ve become a crazed evangelist. Even worse, I fear sounding like an amateur evangelist because of my lack of expertise in the teachings of Jesus and God’s other messengers. I’m considering attending divinity school to be able to base my work upon a vast history of knowledge and inquiry, yet for now, I’m simply diving in and “wrestling with it.”  
 
My heart and thinking will continue to be influenced by meditation, yoga, innumerable books, the moving worship traditions of other religions, and the Divine Feminine. For me, God is everywhere.
 
The Jesus I believe in is anything but limiting. I’m beginning to think he was and is far deeper and more magical and mystical than usually portrayed. One of my girlfriends said the other night, “What’s the point of it all without the magic?” I love that perspective.

That is what I’d like to explore with you, going forward. Where is the magic of God found in your life?

A Mother’s Love

March 2, 2010

In the earthly realm, what kind of trust most approximates your trust in God?” That was a question put to me this week.  My answer was that I have never once doubted my mother’s love.
 
It has astounded me that through all the hard work of raising my four sisters and me, and all the grief we gave her (she raised five opinionated girls!), my Mom’s love for us remains, at its core, unwavering and limitless. My trust in the steadfastness of her love grew over time and repeated experience. By my adolescence, I was sure that it would always be there no matter what. I believe that if a child receives nothing else from a parent, trustworthy love is a rock upon which she can build a life.
 
When I ask teenage girls from challenging circumstances to name the most important person in their lives, almost all of them answer, “My Mom. Because she takes care of me.”
 
Their calm and grateful trust in their mothers’ care and my own experience illuminate my understanding of God’s motherly love – a constant, deep, and forgiving love that can be trusted despite my disappointing Her, turning my back on Her, judging Her, telling Her what to do, or rudely asserting my independence from Her.
 
My Mom recently wrote me about her experience as a young mother of five girls and how the women’s movement saved her. “I finally felt I had a right to my own life, and I redoubled my efforts to raise each of you girls to understand that you were as deserving of your place on earth as anyone, to have a backbone, and to have a sense of your own innate worth and strength.”
 
I believe that is what Mother God wants for all of Her daughters as well – to know that each of us is deserving of our place on Earth and to trust our innate worth and strength.
 
Even as an adult, my mother’s hug is still enormously comforting to me. Her embrace creates a feeling that is aptly described by the words of Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century mystic known for her theology of God as Mother: 
 
“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
 
To be able to trust in that kind of love, whether from God or one’s own mother, is what I wish for everyone.

Joy Returns!

February 22, 2010

Many of you are aware of the sorry state I was in at Christmastime. I was down in heart, to be sure. I deemed it blessed then, only to realize later just how true that label was.
 
Yesterday, during a retreat at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Brother Curtis Almquist from the Society of St. John the Evangelist reaffirmed for me that when our hearts are broken – broken open – God can come in. Usually, God has been patiently waiting for a welcoming of His ever-available and powerful love.
 
I also find that when my heart is vulnerable, it is more sensitive to the slightest healing grace. Similarly, when my own will has repeatedly brought me to a dead end, I become far more attuned to the subtlest of Divine leadings.
 
So here we are eight weeks post-Christmas meltdown. And I’m deeply well. You see, after I placed my love life in the hands of God (with a touch of resignation), to my surprise, God delivered immediately. Now, I know that God often delivers in ways I don’t recognize. Yet this time, the gift came in clear-as-day and in such a form that I knew it, or rather he, must be from God.
 
A dear girlfriend once spoke of the comfort of being “well loved” in her long-term marriage even through its tests and trials. She wished for me the same feeling. I knew deep down that despite having been in a few romantic relationships in recent years, I had not been well loved in quite a while. Nor had I loved particularly well.
 
Perhaps I had to understand just how well I am loved by God before I could really experience that on a human level? Perhaps God wants me to know Him now through a man’s love? I will say that I’m amazed by the experience.
 
I heard a few lines of Psalm 30 yesterday that perfectly capture my gratitude for this gift I’ve received:
 
“O Lord my God, I cried to thee for help,
   and thou has healed me…
Weeping may tarry for this night, 
   but joy comes with the morning.”

 
Joy did return, and boy, is it a good feeling! When I start to fear that this too shall pass, I take comfort knowing that joy and weeping are ongoing parts of life. I’ve come to trust that God will use each to deepen my relationship with Him.
 
In the meantime, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this.

More than a Few Good Men

February 1, 2010

I don’t read much about football as I’m not a sporty girl.  However, this article in today’s New York Times spoke to me. It’s about a group of middle-aged friends and their Sunday pickup games; it reveals what I love about men. 
 
“People say, ‘Why do you spend so much time in the huddle?’ ” Mr. Lupo said. “By the time you tell the seventh guy what to do, the first guy forgot what he’s supposed to do.”
 
I love when men are confident enough to be humble. I love men who are kind and good. Many men are of course. Yet growing up in a household of six women, I didn’t know a lot of them. 

My Dad was the guy who rode me on his back in the pool, brought home chocolate footballs from Rip’s Cigarettes, and held me when my kitten John died in a shoebox, yet I didn’t know really  know him when I was young. Now, looking back at photos of a 30-year-old with five little girls surrounding him, I see the man. Doing the best he could to provide for and protect us.  Imperfectly, he freely admitted, yet trying.
 
I came to know and respect my Dad’s humility, his goodness, the love behind his anger, his effort to do the right thing, and to right what had gone wrong.
 
I’ve spent a lot of time “learning” about men. Books. Classes. Dinners with girlfriends. What I’ve really absorbed though has come through my brothers-in-law, my friends’ husbands, a fair boss, an octogenarian mentor, a funny colleague, and …. a special few.
 
The few who are committed, honorable, humble and real, and whose paths, I’m grateful, have crossed mine. I look at men with more admiration and wonder now.  Nothing melts my heart more than a man speaking from his.
 
I facilitate workshops and coach the Women’s Circle so that we may feel ourselves as women, fully.  I’m inspired by the men in my life to explore even more what that means.