Many Ways To Pray: Walking A Labyrinth

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

There are many ways to pray—in song, spoken or written words, silence, creativity, nature and movement, just to mention a few. Paul recommends to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which is only possible if we are able to connect with our Creator in a variety of ways. We are meant to engage our senses, our whole bodies, in prayer.

I’ve come to appreciate this about the Catholic Mass, even if visitors might think there is a lot of up and down. We genuflect, sit, stand, kneel and bow. These gestures, postures or movement help to bring our whole being into prayerful expression—raising our hands when saying the “Our Father”, making the sign of the cross or receiving the Eucharist allows us to use our bodies in prayer.

lab signIn addition, walking the stations of the cross or a labyrinth, taking a nature hike, or practicing yoga or tai chi are prayerful forms of movement that engage our bodies while quieting our mind. 

This summer I had the opportunity to pray in many ways while attending an eight-day Ignatian retreat at the Creighton University Retreat Center. Each day, for about an hour, I met with a spiritual director to receive guidance and to share my faith journey; the remainder of the day was spent reflecting on these discussions and praying. One of the ways that I prayed was by walking a labyrinth.

“A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is a symbol of life without meaning, it is an agent of confusion, deception with dead ends that lead you nowhere. But a labyrinth is a symbol of a life of deeper meaning, an on-going sacred journey leading us inward, outward and to greater wholeness.”Carrie Newcomer

lab 2

There is a clear design to a labyrinth with only one path to reach the center, albeit not direct, and the same path to walk  from the center outwards. Bringing one’s prayer to the labyrinth helps engage the mind, body and spirit.

“The labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world…Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual discipline that invites us to trust the path, to surrender to the many turns our lives take, and to walk through the confusion, the fear, the anger, and grief that we cannot avoid experiencing as we live our earthly lives.”  Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress

Often before starting a labyrinth walk, I offer an intention, ask a question, or prayerfully surrender a situation to God. Sometimes I carry a SoulCollage® card with me as I journey towards the center. Because there is only one path inward, the mind can let go of how one while arrive at the center. It is a certainty that I will get there eventually. I practice trusting that wherever God takes me, I will be led both inward to the center and back out. I can settle into a knowing that God is with me, that God accompanies.

This walk, or journey inward, is a metaphor for life—really all situations, relationships and decisions are a journey. So often we don’t know where we are headed, even with the best of plans or intentions. With a labyrinth walk, one has the experience of letting go of their own plan—surrendering and trusting that the center will be reached.  It is nearly impossible to rush through a labyrinth. Just imagine what that might look like at the turning points. It is actually dizzying to make the turns, circling around from one quadrant to another, if moving too fast. The best option for the labyrinth (and perhaps for all of life) is to move in a rhythmic, slow, meditative walk.

Despite the appearance of a dead end, or another switchback, the journey continues inward and will ultimately arrive at the center. The route isn’t always clear. I often wonder if I somehow lost my place. Am I just walking in circles? There may be a bit of anxiety, but trusting that the path is the right one brings freedom. If this can be transferred to our life’s journey, imagine what that freedom might be like! Wherever God takes me, whether I am led inward or back out, when I feel I’ve lost my way or the walk feels longer than it should, I am reminded that God holds the divine design to our personal journey.

labyrinth prayer

When I arrive at the center of the labyrinth, I surrender my intention, rest and pray. Recently I learned the labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral is situated where the womb of Mary would be if the cathedral itself symbolized the head, arms and body of Mary (see Bishop Robert Barron’s description of the Chartres Cathedral and the image of Mary). It is a beautiful image to bring one’s prayer and concerns to the womb of Mary, surrendering into Jesus who surrendered for us. God makes our offering into something new; through our surrender, something in us can be birthed or transformed. The labyrinth, of course, is a symbol of this—we can surrender anytime. We are called to, as Jesus said, “Follow me”.

 

Wisdom Ways Labyrinth Building
Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth completed in 1220, France

 

Bishop Robert Barron describes the stained-glass window, perfectly shaped to reflect on the labyrinth, as a symbol of heavenly light shining on the womb of Mary, receiving the light of Christ as the bearer of the divine word. Spending time in the center of the labyrinth, we can make personal Mary’s acceptance, “Be it done unto me (Luke 1:38).” We surrender as Mary did when she received the news from the angel Gabriel in the Annunciation.

“Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.”-Julia Cameron 

The journey outward is a continued expression of the prayerful surrender. It occurred to me while walking outward that I was moving more quickly. I was in a bit of a hurry even. Almost as if to say “I surrender, but please, answer my prayer quickly” or “There, I did it! I surrender. Done!”  I am aware that I prefer difficult situations to be “fixed” now. I want a resolution; I don’t want to wait for an answer or solution. I don’t want the pain of the journey. I want to get straight to the center and back out again. Of course, the hurrying really doesn’t work. Staying attentive and slowly walking the walk is the only way to stay in God’s presence, to truly surrender. 

Walking the labyrinth brings new insights each time—about the process itself, as a metaphor for life’s journey, and about the situation in need of prayer. Praying while walking a labyrinth can be combined with many other forms of prayer as well.

 

labyrinth and card
A SoulCollage® card I made to represent a recent dream.

 

 I love labyrinths and am so excited about one being built at St. Benedict Center! “Its model is the famous labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres, France.  When the Holy Land was closed to pilgrims in the Middle Ages, labyrinths abounded in the churches of Europe.  They were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Our life is a pilgrimage, a journey to our eternal home with God in heaven.” –Father Thomas Leitner The labyrinth will be completed by spring 2018.

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Consider attending a retreat I am leading hosted by St. Benedict Center called Living in the Fullness of God, October 27-28, 2018. Through prayer, we grow in the fullness of relationship with God. “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything” (Julian of Norwich). What does it mean to live life to its fullest? Is it possible to always live with joy? Explore the paradox of embracing joy and sadness, light and darkness, birthing and dying, God in all and God within as we explore our greatest joy—that we are created in the image of God and we are created to create! Embrace the fullness of God’s gift of creative prayer including lectio divina, SoulCollage®, guided meditation and a labyrinth walk.

labyrinth June 2017

 

 

Lessons I’ve Learned, Again: 2016 in Review

beginningsHappy New Year from SoulFully You! Thank you for subscribing to and sharing my posts during 2016.

The SoulFully You website was birthed as a way to connect with those who practice prayerful creativity and who attend my retreats and workshops. The blog came along later when writing as an expression of creativity felt comfortable. Journaling is a spiritual practice, sometimes an emotional purging, but always a way to see the hand of God at work in one’s life. For me, reflecting is just as prayerful as the writing itself. Reading what I have written during 2016, I see how God was preparing me for challenges, urging me to trust and to be patient. God works in every moment of our life—in times of joy and peace, turmoil and trial.  I am never more certain of that than when I re-read my journal or blog posts. I appreciate those in person, or through this blog, who joined me in the journey.

Lessons I Have Learned, Again

Most of 2016 was observed as a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, a time to reflect on the many ways we are in need of mercy and the opportunity to always begin again.  Sometimes it takes living, learning a lesson, living it again, remembering the lesson learned, (and in my case) writing about it, screwing it up a few more times, before, finally, letting the lesson settle into the soul as a balm for what ails.

captureThere were plenty of opportunities to practice mercy, on myself and others, this year. In Parker Palmer for President: The only political post I will ever make, I was full of intention to be “more Benedictine” during the tension of a tumultuous election year—to listen more, to honor diversity and to be more hospitable to those who don’t share similar political views. I admit that it was easier to write before we knew who the Presidential nominees would be, before offensive Facebook posts and family disagreements, before the dream of our first woman President died, than it was to live out. The best outcome from this post—a direct response from the dear Parker Palmer, who I pledge to vote for should he ever decide to run.

Lesson learned: Having intention is easier than action; be more merciful to oneself; try again. 

In When the Dust Settles, I had a dream that gave me the insight to move through some difficult situations slowly, to be cautious, and to patiently wait for the dust to settle, to see what otherwise might be overlooked. God has many backup plans for us; we don’t need to have a perfect vision of what is to come. By surrendering to surprise, by surrendering an idealized version of our life, we create an opening for God to work in mysterious and more perfect ways than we could have imagined.

Lesson learned: Be patient; one can see more clearly when the dust has settled. 

I also learned what I previously thought I knew, that I don’t know nothin’. I learned from my father-in-law, who also knew nothin’, that one should leave “room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.” So many times I’ve thought I had things figured out, knew what would happen, had expected an outcome, just to come back to this lesson—I don’t know nothin’. Anything can happen and that’s going to be okay too. Things change, God is constant.

Lesson learned: I don’t know nothin’. 

I also remembered that I am a child of God, something I thought I already knew, but apparently had forgotten also. In Made for Goodness: A Child of God, I was reminded of this message: “Walk slowly. Listen, for God is speaking. You are accompanied. You are known; uniquely created. Be faithful. Trust and it won’t matter how the road may turn. It’s not where you are going, but how. God is with you.”

Lesson learned: God is constant. HE is before all things. By HIM all things consist. (Col 1:17) 

So Much Joy Too

Despite the challenging year, there was so much joy too. Most significantly, our daughter, Jessica, navigated her final semester of college, landed an amazing job in Washington DC and moved to Capitol Hill two weeks after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration. “Our blessing has always been for her to pursue her dreams, to find her place in the world and to become a joy-filled, independent adult.” See A Mother’s Blessing and Just Listen: Advice for a Quarter-Life Crisis.

Much joy came from simple, yet poignant moments: lunch with a friend, a walk around Holmes Lake, a thoughtful text message or a surprise gift or card of encouragement, good conversation, times of silence, reading, creating, leading or attending a retreat at St. Benedict Center, having a photo in the Hildegard Center for the Arts “Bridges” Nebraska Sesquicentennial Photo Exhibit, Oblate discussions and lectio divina, the friendship and shared reading with my Circle and book group, the satisfaction of finishing my first theology class at Creighton University, the ordinary moments of marriage and mothering, a Carrie Newcomer concert on a coincidental weekend trip to DC, moments of clarity and connection with the Divine. Joy can always be found.

In 2017, I hope to write more about Benedictine spirituality, sharing posts and other resources at a new website and blog, BeingBenedictine.combeing-benedictine

Thanks to you, SoulFully You was viewed 4700 times by over 2400 readers in more than 40 countries, primarily in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Germany.  SoulFully You is about listening, praying and living a creative, purposeful, passionate life. It’s about becoming SoulFully You.  

May you have joy, peace, love, and creativity in 2017!  May it settle in your heart that you can “do this hard thing” knowing God is present in all of your moments. Blessings, Jodi

You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing

 

 

 

I don’t know nothin’.

I don’t know nothin’.

After trying to solve world problems, philosophizing and sharing his wisdom over a glass of wine at our kitchen table, my father-in-law, Marv, would exclaim, “What do I know? I don’t know nothin’.” He had thoughts and opinions (oh, yes, he did) and plenty of experience, but, self-admittedly, he knew he still didn’t know much.131207_10200564020853354_135052895_o

Marv said it often enough that it was the opening line in the eulogy my husband gave for his dad’s funeral. So much is held in those few words: I don’t know nothin’.

Perhaps it meant—I surrender. I am humbled. I don’t know it all. I don’t know hardly anything. I can’t see the big picture. I raise up my hands and proclaim, “I don’t know.” I thought I had answers. I thought I knew a lot, but now, I’m not so sure I know much at all.

I’m not sure if Marv meant all those things when he said “I don’t know nothin’,” but it does show that he left room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.  

Feeling blinded by the dust and debris of life, his words speak to me when I feel my plans are not going according to the playbook I’ve written.  I’m not special; I know dust and debris fly for all. Life is humbling—this is what I think my father-in-law meant. And I am missing him right now because I know he would’ve comforted me and brought it all down to that one line-“I don’t know nothin’.”

Marv, even though he’s been gone now for 3 years, still lives on in my heart and head. He is my inspiration for this SoulCollage card, “Surrender Supergirl”:supergirl

I am one who is young at heart, brave and courageous, but I am still growing. I have a ways to go before I am the Supergirl I wish that I was. I am one who isn’t quite as brave as I might look.

I wonder, how do I look? Do I care what I look like to others? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I should surrender this idea of Supergirl….or at least the idea that her strength and knowledge comes from me alone. 

Part of me is hidden from others and even myself. I’m still discovering who I am and where my strength comes from. I am at peace knowing that I don’t have everything all figured out right now, and maybe I never will. I will grow either way- whether I strive to or not.

The tree does not wish itself to grow. It just grows. In wind and rain, drought and snow, being cared for and being neglected, the tree grows. I am growing into the freedom of a cautious and courageous spirit. I am growing into knowing nothing, of letting go what I thought being strong and brave, courageous and peaceful looked like. 

It doesn’t look like anything. It is experienced. It is lived into. It is not an easy thing to grow, but I raise my arms in surrender, dancing on the beaches of freedom, the freedom from having to know everything. I surrender Supergirl.  

I don’t know nothin’.

Marv was almost 80 years old when he died and I am almost 50, but age doesn’t really matter when we are on a journey to knowing (and unknowing) ourselves. Marv was a humble man who gave of himself in so many ways. If this is what it means to know nothing, sign me up.

Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. –Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 MedalBlueGold180

Learn more about Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of St. Benedict.

 

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!”

Giving Up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506

Phase one—Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!—was the decision to sell our house without knowing where we might move, trusting that our leap of faith would be an interesting exercise of self-awareness and surrender.

Phase two—Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer—was eye-opening. After a few weeks of the decluttering process—making decisions about what to throw, keep, donate or save—it became apparent that the last nine years had been ACCUMULATING years. I realized we had far more stuff than I thought.

Just put it in the basement     If we were paid a dollar for every time one of us said, “Put it in the basement”, we could pay our next month’s rent. Continue reading “Giving Up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506”

Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!

So…we are really going to put this surrender idea into practice. Or at least we are going to give ourselves the opportunity to practice. We are putting our house up for sale. And we have no idea what we are going to do when it sells.

It’s an adventure—kind of exciting, a little scary, a definite opportunity to Continue reading “Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!”

Signs on country roads…and in life.

DSC_0076abI found some new country roads this weekend with lots of hills and curves and dead-ends and surprises.

If people think Nebraska is flat, then they’ve never gotten off Interstate-80. I drove for miles seeing neither car nor person. I discovered roads that are closed (likely indefinitely); roads that are minimally maintained; roads with bends, turns and curves, for no other apparent reason than a row of trees in the way; roads thatDSC_0079a embraced hills that rose out of nowhere; and roads with sharp rights (and no other options). Continue reading “Signs on country roads…and in life.”

Just float…Gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream

When you feel like you’re sinking, just float.

Lie back and rest.

You will be held.

float struggleMade in the image of God, we are created to create. We are meant to DO something with what we are given—our ideas, our talents and our dreams. God planted them within us for a reason. They are conceived without our knowing, but we sense it. Something is happening within us and we must take notice. Continue reading “Just float…Gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream”

Linger in the 12 Days of Christmas

mother and childWe are still in the midst of the Christmas season. There are TWELVE DAYS of Christmas…you know the song. Yes, the gaudy decorations are still up at the mall, but the Valentine’s Day displays are being assembled right next to boughs of holly and Santa’s reindeer. And all of the items that espoused to create your perfect Christmas are being sold at 50-75% off; for some reason those items aren’t worth as much as they were last week. Christmas is over! As a culture, we plow through Christmas and move on the next Hallmark-created holiday—and that’s just the way retailers like it. Continue reading “Linger in the 12 Days of Christmas”

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