New Year Resolutions

Contributed by the Rev. Edward M. Cardoza

Ah yes, the New Year is upon us. Many people will do a year in review. Others will set resolutions. I always like to set an intentional practice around New Year’s Day. I usually like to find some quiet time during the day itself. It may be near my fireplace, or in my favorite comfortable chair or—if the outdoors beckons—along my favorite wooded path. I settle in with some breathing, focus and silence—and I ask myself: what were the things I really enjoyed in 2016. Sometimes these come easily. I suspect this year—it may take a little more focus. As each of those moments comes up—just take a moment to savor them and be thankful for them. You can also write them down on a piece of paper or place them in your journal.

Can you make a resolution to commit to doing some of these things again in 2017?

Next, I like to ask what were the issues or situations that caused the most stress, anxiety or disappointment over the year? Again, it might be good to list them down. As you review the list—allow them to be taken in by you. What was out of your control? What could you have taken more responsibility for within yourself? What remains unresolved? What needs healing?

For those situations out of control—can you let them go and cast them away? For those needing you to take responsibility—can you make a commitment to do that in 2017? For those needing resolution or healing—are you able to commit to that in 2017? Write down an action plan—of things you want to let go of and things you want to do in the New Year.

Breath! Delight! Take a look at your lists—New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t just be wish list of things you know your probably won’t do—they ought to be about repeating places of joy, fulfillment and happiness. And, they ought to also be about letting go of what we can’t control and taking responsibility for things we can do something about.

I find when I do this practice—it leaves me with a commitment to live life more abundantly by committing to do those things that went well and to repair those areas that are disconnected or in need of healing.

Best wishes to you in the New Year!

Autumn: Season of Change

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Contributed by the Rev. Edward C. Cardoza

Autumn presents us with lots of opportunities to experience the outdoors.  Even for those of us for whom getting outside may be a challenge—all we need is proximity to a window and we can have an opportunity to experience a brisk breeze or a tree in full fall splendor.  It can also be a particularly ripe time for contemplative practice so I offer the following.

I’d encourage you to find a beautiful perch by a pond, or a comfortable spot along a wooded path or even—as I suggested before—just simply opening up a window close to you.

First step, take a deep breath and, keeping your eyes open, give thanks for creation, wonder and beauty…let the breath out.  Notice the first thing that your eyes encounter.  Perhaps it is a squirrel climbing a tree or a chipmunk gathering nuts or a red leaf falling from a tree…whatever it is…fix on it.   If you can, reach for it…examine it up close. What does it reveal to you?  What truth is it expressing?  Take another deep breath in and a breath out…and spend some time with that revelation or truth.  After a few minutes…give thanks for this experience—and shift spots, change direction or adjust your seat.

Second step, take a deep breath, keeping your eyes closed this time, give thanks for change, for transition and for new seasons…let the breath out.  Notice the first thing that touches you.  Perhaps it is a cool breeze or the autumnal sun or an acorn hitting your back…whatever it is….fix on it.  Let it continue to touch you.  What does it say to you?  What does it compel you to do?  Take another deep breath in and a breath out…and spend some time with that compelling voice.  After a few minutes…give thanks for this experience.

This is a nice spiritual practice to do on a crisp, sun-filled, fall day—it will also leave you with some food for thought for your journey.   What did creation reveal to you? What new things are you compelled to do or to witness to in this season of change?

Swimming Holes and Contemplation

Wading

Contributed by board member, The Rev. Edward Cardoza

Some of us are experiencing a drought.  While we have had a few showers and downpours from thunderstorms—we haven’t had the sustained, deluge of water necessary to restore our reservoirs, rivers & lakes.  Our dry, wearied gardens are thirsty. Sometimes the spiritual life can feel like this! It can be experienced as dry and parched.  It can leave one wondering what to do and where to go for relief.

One of my favorite experiences of summer is to escape to my favorite swimming hole.  Do you have one?  For some it may, literally be a secret place…tucked off into the woods, down a shaded path and unknown only to the locals.  For others it might be a well-known spot—a place like Walden Pond in Concord, MA for instance.  And for some, it may have to be improvised—a kiddie pool in the backyard or even a bathtub can become a spontaneous place to soak and relax.

There is something profound about immersing into water.

It can become a contemplative activity.

I myself am a floater—I like to gently close my eyes, spread open my arms, wiggle my toes and simply float.  I find it easier to pay more attention to my breathing half submerged in water.  I let the worries of the day subside and the waves of the water gently move over me—reminding me as they do—that I am embodied and alive.  Over the years—I have known plungers.  They like to take a running leap along the path—letting go of anxiety and hurt.  They envision casting it all away—and being made light as they enter the water with a full splash.  When they hit the water and get pulled up to the surface—they feel restored. And I have also known waders.  They gently like to immerse into the water—“praying in” each step—following the natural incline of the land into the water.  They eventually get to the point where they swim gently away from shore—leaving their cares there and enjoying the quiet and the silence.

I’d invite you to find a way to encounter water in a contemplative way this summer.  Seek out a local swimming hole—Google can always be an excellent source.  Here is one showing some of the best swimming holes in New England.

Best Swimming Holes in New England

Maybe you will discover whether you are a floater, plunger or wader—or perhaps you might find a new way of being in this wonderful element that we call water.

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.