Into the Heart of the Labyrinth

labyrinth

Contributed by board member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“One more step, we will take one more step, ‘til there is peace for us and everyone, we’ll take one more step.” Hymn by Joyce Poley.

“Ask your question.  Focus on your breathing, focus on the path, let everything else fall away, just your breath and the path before you.”

The labyrinth had been created by the simple measure of applying painter’s tape to the floor.  The words of my host were a surprise to me.   I had never walked one under guidance before.  The ones I had visited were outdoors, most recently at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham.  I tend to let my thoughts run free when I walk – I don’t pay attention to the world around me.  If there was a wrong way to walk a labyrinth, I guess I’d found it.  I mentally shook my head and considered the most pressing issue before me that day; a fairly thorny one of interpersonal relations and the possibility of much hurt feelings.  I took a step, and then another.

A labyrinth is an intricate pathway that follows a tight pattern of turns leading you to the center of the design and back out again.  Labyrinths are “unicursal” meaning they are straightforward – only one way to go.  Mazes, on the other hand, are “multicursal” meaning they are tricky – many ways to go and a lot of dead ends.   Mazes may have walls; labyrinths tend to have marked pathways.   Walking a labyrinth is often a relaxing or contemplative practice rather than a game.  They have existed for thousands of years all over the world and we see them everywhere; from cathedral floors to ancient Greek coins.

That morning I stared at the blue tape on white tile and wondered how walking this path was supposed to help.  I thought of all the what-ifs, all the should-have-dones, and then reminded myself to bring my breathing and my steps to the forefront, and leave behind where I had been a moment before.  Leave my steps behind.  It struck me how often I saw the past as having a stranglehold on the future – as if there was no room for change, for grace, for transformation.  I was fretting about the situation as if everyone involved, including myself, had no capacity for newness, new insight and understanding and compassion.  I can’t say that everyone has that capacity for newness at all times, but I can’t deny all possibilities, either.  My way was a little clearer and the possibilities brighter.  One step at a time, friends, one step at a time.

To find a labyrinth near you, click on this link: http://labyrinthlocator.com.  Be sure to use all multiple spellings of the name of your town if necessary.

 

Pause and Breathe

Pause-Breathe

Contributed by board member, The Rev. Philip Hardwick

Every breath is a resurrection.
—Gregory Orr (excerpt from poem “Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved”)

In the Benedictine tradition there is a monastic practice called statio, which is the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another.  Imagine, instead of rushing from one appointment to the next, that between each one you pause, you breathe just five long slow breaths. Imagine how this might transform your movement from one activity to another. Or even if you move from one room to another, to allow a brief pause on the threshold between spaces. God lives inside our breath and so every breath can become a resurrection.

For the Celtic monks, thresholds were sacred places. The space or the moment between – whether physical places or experiences –  is a place of possibility. Rather than waiting being a nuisance, or a sense that you are wasting time, it is an invitation to breathe into the now and receive its gifts.

Each moment of the breath is a threshold – the movement from inhale to fullness to exhale to emptiness. The breath can help us stay present to all of the moments of transition in our lives, when we feel tempted to rush breathlessly to the next thing. Instead, what happens in our bodies and hearts when we intentionally pause? When we honor this threshold as sacred? When we breathe deeply and slowly for even a single minute?

Statio calls us to a sense of reverence for slowness and mindfulness. We can open up a space within for God to work. We can become fully conscious of what we are about to do rather than mindlessly starting and completing another task. We call upon the breath as an ancient soul friend to help us to witness our lives unfolding, rather than being carried along until we aren’t sure where our lives are going. We can return again and again to our bodies and their endless wisdom and listen at every threshold.

We often think of these in between times as wasted moments and inconveniences, rather than opportunities to return again and again to the expansiveness of the present moment and the body’s opening to us right now, to awaken to the gifts right here, not the ones we imagine waiting for us beyond the next door.

Statio!

Busyness and Presence

 

Virgin Mary

 

Submitted by Board Member, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch

Today is a swirl of activity around the church. We have an Eagle Scout project going on, window replacement, asphalt dump, Senior Luncheon with guest speaker, Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, grant deadline, and all the regular stuff that happens on a daily basis. There is a hum in the atmosphere with laughter, excitement, new faces,temporary faces, and familiar faces. With so much going on it is easy to lose oneself to the busyness. It is easy to get lost in the interactions of what is happening around me. It is easy to get distracted from the real business of the church, which is to be connected to God, to be an outpost of the Kingdom, to be present.

This morning a woman brought in a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be blessed. I almost missed her in the running around trying to get groups settled and going. She got my attention and asked to speak with me. We went to my office and there she told me her story. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and had surgery to remove it three years ago. Each day she has been praying the Hail Mary and it has helped her deal with the illness and the pain. It has brought her peace and stillness in the face of anxiety and stress and the busyness of doctors, nurses, and surgeries. When she found the statue at Pennies from Heaven, she bought it and took it home. She says it has become a symbol of hope and care, and helps her remember that all will be well.

The busyness and the cares and anxieties of life can take us away from our true self. They can become a distraction from resting in the Presence of God and being at peace with our lives. I love the swirl of activity; it is energizing and exciting. But I have to be aware of what is most important: God’s Presence.

 

 

 

Prayer and the Play of Light

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From board member The Rev. Edward M. Cardoza

The days between spring and summer always seem to be a challenge for me in prayer.   I find myself wanting to be outside after having been cooped up all winter—sadly though not every day allows for this!  This winter seems to have presented more cold wintery days after the spring equinox, than before it.  So I have found myself finding that room in my house or that corner in my place of prayer that gets the most light.  I have begun setting up my morning or evening meditation in each of these spots with a bit more intentionality—choosing a time each day, and doing my best to show up.

At home, this special place is a tiny East facing window.  In the morning light, the window comes alive with pinks, blues and vibrant bursts of orange.  I’ve used this powerful display of nature’s making to pray with the play of light.  As the light changes in intensity and color—I pull myself closer into silence and awe.  Any moment–where I find myself distracted or being pulled into the busyness of the day before me—I return to the light outside.  I ask for grounding, for peace and for deep silence to surround me.  I remind myself of the prayer by John O’Donohue entitled “Morning Offering” in which he prays:

I place on the altar of dawn:

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Wave of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.

At my place of ministry, this special place is a West facing set of stained glass windows.  The light panels have vibrant colors and modern cut glass—with a light purple background.  I’ve found the perfect corner—and perfectly worn chair—that seems to hold my body without an ounce of discomfort.  The play of light in the evening is softer—perhaps even quieter and somber.  I ask for reflection, for forgiveness and for clarity.  It’s my own version of an Ignatian Examen—an opportunity to bring to prayer the challenges, hardships, joys and worries of the day.  A chance to voice what went well and what didn’t.

It’s a grace to mark the start and the end of the day like this.  When our light shifts—and gives us longer days—it only seems to make sense to immerse ourselves in its playfulness.   In drawing near, I always find something old spoken again or something new emerging from within.  In a few weeks, I will be outside—until then, I am becoming okay with this new approach to prayer.

Shared Spring Celebrations

YellowFlowers

Contributed by Board Member, the Rev. Sarah Person

It is spring: deliverance from the quiet darkness of winter and the return of green and the reaching toward the sun.  In our northern climes, spring time is crowded with meaning and rich with symbols and rituals that have been passed down to us like a spiritual DNA.   This season is a true inter-religious, inter-cultural feast!

From time immemorial we have marked the last full moon before the equinox and spring itself and regaled ourselves with bright colors, eggs, hares, particular flowers, bonfires, and dances.

The same lilies and hyacinths that decorate Christian altars on Easter Sunday, are assembled for Ba Hai celebrations of No Ruz.   Eggs appear on the Jewish Seder plate, and in Easter egg hunts.

The Hindu Festival Holi at this time of year is the festival of love, or the festival of colors.  People don’t decorate eggs; they decorate each other with bright powdered colors as they dance in the streets.  It is a time to play, and forgive and to heal.

We all share traditions based on fertility and new growth, renewal and redemption.  We remind one another of our deliverance from evil, from slavery, from death itself.   We embrace the second chance at life and the effervescent joy of living even the short spans allotted to us.

Happy Spring, friends, Happy Spring

 

Setting Our Faces Towards Jerusalem: A Lenten Quiet Evening

CGCSP Soughers Setting Our Faces Towards Jerusalem

Come and join us for an evening of quiet and reflection. From early Christian times, Holy Week has been a major time of pilgrimage. As Christians prepare for the holiest week of the year, come and prepare yourself to journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem.

We will begin at 6:00 with a soup supper and end by 9:30. Come for all of it or any part. Meditations will be offered, and feel free to bring any quiet activity that will assist you in your own preparation.