My word for the year is…

You know how spiritual gurus encourage you to pick a word of the year, something profound and inspirational to help you navigate a new year? Well, I found mine the other day. I had contemplated some lofty sounding words, but I don’t even remember them now because when this word fell on me, I knew it was the one.

My word for the year is going to be cushion.

cushioned either way.jpgCushioned, either way. Loved, either way.  Card created for Word of the Year, 2018.

When I have a lot of activity then I need to cushion it with some non-activity, some silence and solitude. When I have a lot of sitting, I need to cushion it with more standing and walking around (this I’ve learned from my back injury.) I love the “vorfreude”, the anticipation of travel, but my adventures need to be cushioned with the feeling of contentment when arriving home, sweet home. And the times when I think I can pour just a bit more information into my brain by reading one more article or one more chapter, I shall give myself a cushion, the needed space for new thoughts and ideas to bubble up.

Once I was taken with the idea of cushion as my one-word guide to freedom and happiness in 2018, I couldn’t stop thinking about the various applications. For instance, I should like to give myself a soft place to fall, a cushion on those days when I am too hard on myself. And when I’m too hard on others or expect too much, I can imagine a cushion between them and me. I can be a little softer and a little more forgiving, a little less rigid and a little more relaxed.

Really, it’s about balance, an invaluable tool of Benedictine spirituality that helps one stay in present moment experience, having enough silence and space to listen with the ear of the heart.

balance
One of the first cards I made, titled “Balance”

I remember how Fr. Mauritius demonstrated what balance looks like at a retreat he directed.  Standing in the center of the room, which represented having a perfect balance, he shared that it is impossible to always be in a perfectly balanced state of being. Rather, what we do is go a little too far to the left (say, with committing to too many social engagements) or a little too far to the right (perhaps, with too much isolation.) To demonstrate how we so often get out of balance, Fr. Mauritius physically ran to the left side of the room and bounced off the wall. And then to re-correct, an attempt at finding balance, he ran to the opposite side of the room and bounced off that wall.

balance2

Our life is a constant attempt to achieve some kind of balance, but perhaps our efforts can be made more gently. This bouncing off the wall is what I would like to avoid in 2018….with my cushion. Instead of overcommitting, I will take the time to ask myself—will this be too much? Am I overcommitting? Is this a physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy way for me to spend my time?

Additionally, I shall allow myself the cushion of time needed to make any decision. There is no need to rush, to overcommit, to bounce off that darn wall so hard. I shall gently bump into the ever-so-soft cushion I have gifted myself as a reminder to listen to the ear of the heart.

Speaking and silence.
Together and alone.
Activity and rest.
Prayer and work.

The connection between these two good options is the word “and”, not “or”. We need both. We need balance, yes, but we can give ourselves a cushion, the opportunity to rest knowing that perfection is not expected. We listen. We act. We pray. We readjust. “This is how a Benedictine’s day is. It is always changing, alternating—praying, working, resting. This is captured in the Benedictine motto, pray and work…The most important word is ‘and’.” -Fr. Mauritius Wilde

Perhaps, this cushion, this soft place to fall, is what love is.

I want to give that cushion, that love to myself. I pray my loved ones know that I can be their cushion, a soft place to fall when they need to know the love of another. “Love one another.”-John 13:34

And, finally, for myself and others–to remember that meeting God in prayer is the ultimate cushion“God is love.” 1 John 4:8

love merton

In place of confusing life patterns, the security of a healthy balance”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

Listen to the Word of God”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

Our Life is a Balance”, Being Benedictine,  January 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

My 2017 Word of the Year—Be Excessively Gentle: A New Year’s Un-Resolution, SoulFully You

Music as Prayer ♫ This Journey Is My Own

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” -Plato

Singing is soulful. It is prayerful and it is powerful. I love to sing (in the privacy of my own car). I love to listen to others sing, from the liturgical chant of Benedictine monks to contemporary Christian artists. Whether it’s the melody or insightful lyrics that I find a connection with, music can create a mood, help recognize or express a feeling, or bring me to a place of prayerful listening.

When monks are singing they believe they are singing with the angels, and we are just to join in. The beauty of singing familiar songs and hymns is allowing our mind and heart to beat as one. Songs that capture what we could have not so artfully written, become our prayer. To sing, or sing with another, is to elevate the soul, to connect with the Divine.

journey is my own

With music as inspiration, I created this SoulCollage® card to honor my own journey, some new paths I am taking. The words came later:

I am one who is on a journey. I walk this path alone, yet accompanied.  At times I walk a road that is flat, even, predictable; at other times with bumps and bends that I don’t expect. Sometimes it’s all uphill.  Smooth or stony, I walk with the prayer of birthing something new—a new awareness, aim or attitude,  the spark of a fresh idea, or the comfort of a new connection. There are times when the landscape is of no significance. I notice it and I keep walking, nose to the ground. More often, I am one who wanders the road, captivated by clouds and big sky, awake to the countless shades of ordinary green, gold and brown. I notice the details. That is my prayer. I want to see what’s new. I am surrounded by the music of my soul, a prayer, and voice that guides me. I am embraced by the sounds of heaven; I listen to the symphony created  just for me.  And I follow.  This journey is my own.

song-favorite1

“This Journey Is My Own”, a beautiful song by Sara Groves, captures the essence of my spiritual journey, one of my favorites: 

When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone
This journey is my own
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval
This journey is my own

Why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
What does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

So much of what I do is to make a good impression
This journey is my own
And so much of what I say is to make myself look better
But this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now
This journey is my own
Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down
It was breaking me down

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life
And you can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain
I can’t even judge myself, only the Lord can say, ‘Well done.’

Oh, this journey is my own

download

This Journey is My Own, Sara Groves

CaptureSinging in God’s Presence #3: In place of the disability to express ourselves, to sing, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict: A Spiritual Path for Today’s World with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B., PhD.

“The aim and final reason of all music should be nothing else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.”-Johann Sebastian Bach

 

 

 

Every Little Thing!

Little things matter. A bunch of little things can make a difference, especially if it’s all the candy we eat in the weeks leading up to and following Halloween, which bumps into the weeks leading up to and following Thanksgiving…and then there’s all the Christmas parties… you get the idea. All the fun-sized, little snacks and treats can just plain add up on the scale.  Little things matter.

But little things can add up unexpectedly in big and good ways, too. The little things we do to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual health can make a difference. The peaceful inhale and exhale of a contemplative prayer or meditation practice can sustain us when times are stressful. The little things we do for others can give comfort or show appreciation.

There are lots of little ways to make a big difference in the lives of people that we work, play and live with.

My former neighbor and friend, Deidra Riggs, wrote a book called Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are. Deidra found herself living in Nebraska, having moved here for her husband’s job, but not liking it one bit. Right where she was, was not where she wanted to be.

I started planning my escape. I wanted out. Not through. As far as I could tell, Nebraska was the very worst place to live in all the world”, she writes. Continue reading “Every Little Thing!”

Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer

We’ve taken off the top layer of knick-knacks, wall hangings and books—twenty years of pictures of Jessica growing up, snapshots of vacations, dozens of refrigerator magnets holding senior pictures, expired coupons, newspaper clippings and birth announcements—and loaded up two trailers-worth of boxes and furniture that we can live without for a while (and perhaps longer).  The stuff that we can live without has gone to a better home. Continue reading “Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer”

Wise or stupid? A Journey to Wisdom

I am spending time this week preparing a retreat called Journey to Wisdom. Sometimes I am so sure I know what is wise and what is not-so-wi….well, stupid. I can be pretty quick about making that determination in a variety of situations. In educational jargon, I would say I am proficient at determining wise vs. stupid. I am particularly adept at examining the dilemmas or behaviors of others. Actually, I give myself an A+. I’m fairly certain, even, that I’ve done some not-so-w, well, stupid, things myself. I guess we can all have our stupid moments.  So what does it really mean to have wisdom?

Wikipedia tells us, “Wisdom (sophia) is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight, with good intentions.” Having knowledge presumes there is some seeking and hopefully, some finding. Knowledge and experience (according to my experience) come from learning, reading, living, asking questions, trying something new, keeping an open-mind, listening.  And insight can come from reflection, observing, asking, seeking, creating, listening, discussing, meditating and praying–I imagine not an exhaustive list.

Seeker1So can we ever have wisdom? Knowing all, experiencing all, understanding all–sounds more like the definition of God, than of myself. I do not know, experience or understand very much, truth be told. Yet still, I seek.

“The monk, a universal archetype of the search for the divine, represents everything in you that leans toward the sacred, all that reaches for what is eternal.” -Christine Valters Paintner, The Artist’s Rule

This seeking, as a spiritual journey, is never complete. And despite my accuracy in judging wise vs. stupid, I believe it is a journey of a lifetime. I will continue to search, to seek, to lean toward the sacred. So this is what I do with SoulFully You. I seek. I seek to know more about myself and God. I seek so I can share.  I read, learn, discuss, pray and create. I consult my inner monk and inner artist.

The inner monk and the inner artist are archetypes that we will explore on the Journey to Wisdom retreat. I will share more with you on a future blog post (after the retreat.) Sharing too much beforehand would not be wise…well, it would be stupid. 🙂

Card name: Seeker

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