Monthly Archives: September 2018

Dancing on autumn’s threshold

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In my life, I have been present to the dying of two precious loved ones: my brother, age 36, and my mother, age 68. Each too young for death to be rationalized as a graceful ending to a long and well-lived life (although both my brother and mother blessed, and continue to bless, our family and the world in endless ways). Their deaths were not welcomed thresholds, but when I remember those final days, I know, without doubt, that they were sacred places where the veil between life and death, earth and heaven, was very thin.

Perhaps, as we sat vigil beside their still bodies, the spirits of my mother and brother were already traveling a great distance — across the threshold of heaven and earth. Certainly in our vigil-keeping, we felt the “thinness” of the veil. For me, there were times when I could no longer stand upright, but needed to sit on the floor, such was the weight of a Sacred, Loving Presence very near us.

As autumn begins, I consider the threshold of dying and releasing. The trees do it so gracefully and beautifully each year. They come into their truest colors and, for a moment, are magnificent and dazzling, and then they let go — their leaves dancing in the air — then falling — to nourish the ground for new life.

Parker Palmer writes:

“I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.

Today, at age 76 — as I weather the autumn of my own life — I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well-done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But, as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the most difficult of times.”

I wonder how I might learn from the trees and leaves — how to let go when the time comes — how to dance with each breeze — and at every threshold, even in the darker thresholds of loss, be open to the gifts of transformation.

In this autumn season I want to observe the trees and leaves, and ask: What am I being called to release? I will pay attention and notice how the trees and leaves do it. Maybe even join in their dance…

Dear friends, may you accept the invitations to dance in this season of your life~

Donna


A Contemplative Walk: You are invited to take an autumn contemplative walk with a camera (the camera on your phone is fine). Or simply be present to what you encounter. You may choose to “receive” images of releasing and/or thresholds.

In her book, “The Soul’s Slow Ripening” Christine Valters Paintner invites us to notice thresholds:

“Your invitation is to walk and be open to noticing all the places of threshold you discover: doorways, gates, transition places from one kind of space to another, such as the transition from home to work or from city to countryside. See what you notice as you bring this awareness with you. As you encounter each threshold, use your camera (or eyes) to receive an image of it to carry with you. Notice which thresholds especially stir your heart.

When you return home see if one of these images speaks to your heart and rest with it a while. What might it reveal about the threshold you are standing on in your own life?”

 

If you would like to share your picture on this site, please send it to me in an email and I will post it for you: ghlstn@aol.com. (I’m still working on how to allow posting of images within the comments section.) I would also be happy to include your comments with your image – or you can post those separately.

(More detailed guidelines for taking a contemplative walk can be found on the link at the top of the page.)

 

Standing at the crossroad

Prayer practice for September: Lectio Divina

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Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

(Jeremiah 6:16)

(Instructions for this prayer practice can be found at the link at the top of the page. We welcome you to share your “word” or “phrase” in the comments below.)


When I copied the scripture passage onto this page, the previously-continuous lines naturally divided into the three parts above. The unintended separation seemed to emphasize the need to pause.

The scripture passage advises a process of discernment which begins with a holy pause. Too often, instead of pausing, we rush through life, barely taking a breath, dashing down each trail we encounter, not wanting to miss anything — frantically wanting to arrive somewhere — anywhere — so that we can finally stop and rest. This way of “traveling” exhausts and depletes us. We often feel fearful and lost.

A crossroad is a type of threshold: there is a choice to be made, a new path to take. We may feel confused and unsure how to proceed, but we are also anxious to be on our way and leave that uncomfortable place of unknowing.

We need patience to “stand” and “look.” The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.” Henri Nouwen writes: “Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes.”

Are you aware of a crossroad in your life right now? If so, can you take some time to consider what is called for in this moment?

Is it time to simply stand — stop moving, and be still? Sometimes this takes the most courage.

Is it time to look carefully — with the eyes of your heart — at the choices in front of you? Notice where your heart is drawn.

Or is it a time to ask questions (in your prayer or from wise persons in your life) that can help guide you. Good questions can lead us “home” as David Whyte writes:

The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering… If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step, as if she’d known, without ever being told, not only the exact time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed back.

Or, finally, is it time to walk? Have you been quite sure which path is the “good way” but you’re still waiting to take that first step? What do you need to begin?

My prayer for each of us, is that, step by step, we will discover where the good way lies, walk in it, and find rest for our souls.

God’s peace be with you on this journey we walk together. ~Donna

 

Holy pause

I love the word pause. This is the time zone of wonder. (Noelle Oxenhandler)

The Practice of Statio

cropped-sunflower-sun-summer-yellow.jpgIn the monastic tradition, statio is the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another. It is the acknowledgment that in the space of  transition and threshold is a sacred dimension, a holy pause full of possibility. This place between is a place of stillness, where we let go of what came before and prepare ourselves to enter fully into what comes next. (Christine Valters Paintner)

 

When we pause and allow these in-between spaces, we can discover a new type of presence, a “sacred attentiveness.” These in-between spaces open windows of possibility – so that we might recognize how Grace is working in us and around us.

So, how might we practice statio in our daily lives?

I invite you to pause right now and take 3-5 long slow, deepening breaths…

“Notice what you are experiencing as you inhabit the pause. What sensations are you aware of in your body? Do you feel anxious or restless as you try to step out of your mental stories? Do you feel pulled to resume your activity? Can you simply allow, for this moment, whatever is happening inside you?

You can weave the sacred pause into your daily life by pausing for a few moments each hour or as you begin and end activities. You can pause while sitting, standing, or lying down. Even in motion — going for a walk or driving — you can pause internally, eyes open and senses awake. Whenever you find you are stuck or disconnected, you can begin your life fresh in that moment by pausing, relaxing and paying attention to your immediate experience.” (Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance)

Holy pauses are threshold places that promote transformation but they are often not comfortable. We often cannot see the new until we let go of the old. It is a place of trusting and surrender.

I live in unfamiliar places:
The unknowing of empty spaces
Between what was and what is yet to be.
It is the hardest earthly place for me
To dwell within, pause, absolutely still.
Knowing only God and love can fill
The wanting, one drop at a time.

It’s only through the heart’s abiding
That Wisdom might be found hiding
In the shadows of such Sacred Pause.
I offer up what was to mourn in empty spaces,
Let go of worn embraces
So what is yet to be
May somehow birth in me.

~ Pam Breau in PRESENCE, Vol. 10, No 3


Yesterday, I hosted a birthday party for my husband and our one-year-old grandson. Twelve people gathered in our home to celebrate. Given that six attendees were young children and we needed 3 versions of dinner due to health and diet needs, and that there were two birthday cakes and piles of cards and presents that needed constant monitoring so 3-year-old Ezra would not sample the frosting or (helpfully) unwrap the baby’s presents, the event was anything but a physical pause. However, like Tara Brach suggests above, I was able to experience “holy pause” by reconnecting to the moment as fully as possible. It was not always possible of course. But when I could, my spirit –and weary body 🙂 — were lifted in timeless joy by my grandchildren’s shining eyes and smiles, and their loving attention to their grandpa – my beloved.

In closing, I want to share the video below by Carrie Newcomer “Every Little Bit of It” as an invitation to abiding, en-joying, and noticing the Holy, in this very moment…

Dear friends~  May the presence of “Holy Pauses” bless you this week. Please continue to share (as you feel led) in the comments below. It is a precious gift to all of us. ~Donna

 

 

Today

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Today

The ordinary miracles begin. Somewhere

a signal arrives: Now, and the rays

come down. A tomorrow has come. Open

your hands, lift them: morning rings

all the doorbells; porches are cells for prayer.

~William Stafford

 

I know I said I would only post once a week but I could not resist this poem when I came across it this morning. May you be open to the ordinary miracles of this day. Enjoy!  ~Donna

 

 

And so we begin…

“Help me cross into the present moment — into wonder, into Your grace, that “now-place,” where we all are, unfolding as Your life, moment by moment. Let me live on the threshold as threshold.” (Gunilla Norris)

As we begin our “Sacred Rhythms” journey, let’s imagine that we are beginning a day together, with an intention to be present to the unfolding of each moment…

In her book, “The Artist’s Rule,” Christine Valters Paintner writes, “Spring, summer, autumn, and winter each have particular gifts and invitations. Paying attention to the rhythms of the natural world helps us to recognize the place within us that calls for blossoming, fruitfulness, releasing, and resting.”

“What is the season of your life right now? Is it one of planting, blossoming, fruitfulness, releasing, or resting? What are the gifts of this season for you? What are the challenges?

Our theme for September is “thresholds.”* Each of us stands on several thresholds. Thresholds are the in-between spaces — when we are moving from one way of being into another. One way is ending, and another about to begin.

There are thresholds in nature, in the unfolding of each day and each season. And there are thresholds in our life: times when life shifts…. perhaps from a choice we have willingly made, but often from circumstances beyond our control.

For a time, it may feel like we have lost our footing. Christine Valters Paintner writes, “We step into this in-between place of letting go of what has been, while awaiting what still is to come. When we are able to release our need to control the outcome, thresholds can become rich and graced places of transformation. We cannot become something new unless we have released the old faces we have been wearing, even if it means not knowing quite who we are in the space between.”*

Now we stand in the threshold between summer and autumn. We are turning from summer’s long and languid pause towards autumn’s brisk, reviving energy. Perhaps you already sense a subtle shift in the air, and notice tinges of color on certain trees. Fall decorations (and pumpkin-flavored goodies) dominate store shelves. School has begun again. It is time for beginning new projects, and returning to ones laid down for the summer.

The start of our “Sacred Rhythms” online community creates another threshold for us. We do not know how we might be changed by this new undertaking, but we can trust God who has brought us here. My hope is that, in this space, you will find some small gifts for your journey.

To begin our “day” together, I invite you to watch the following brief video by Brother David Stendl-Rast. Find a quiet space of time (10-15 minutes) to watch the 5-minute video a couple times. As you watch the video, pay attention to the words and images that most grab your attention. Then, in the “comments” below, I invite you to share your first name, and what resonates, or draws you most, in the video. This could be a simple word, phrase, image, or idea.

(to comment go to the bottom of the post – and click on “comments” – there you can add your comment and read others. I will try to make this more apparent in future posts.)

This simple sharing begins our getting to know one another — sharing how are hearts are drawn this day. In this way we begin the journey of this “day”  together — at the threshold!

 

I would like to end with a blessing from Jan Richardson. May it bless the threshold places of your life. And may it bless this beginning of our journey together this year!

 

On each threshold, Wisdom;

At every doorway, Love;

Through every entry, Grace;

With each beginning, Peace.

 


*Note: Our themes for each month (and some of the content I will share) will be taken from the latest book by Christine Valters Paintner, “The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred” which is now available on Amazon.