Wednesday, May 8, 2013

stopping by woods on a rainy evening

I enjoyed another wonderful retreat at Tallgrass Spiritual Retreat Center in the Flint Hills last weekend.  If you haven't yet visited this place, I highly recommend you do so before Billie leaves this summer!  The countryside is gorgeous:

Whoops, hang on...

Okay, you have to like lots of sky and cows and fields.  And yes, this is the Flint Hills.  I just can't take pictures and drive at the same time on the windy, hilly parts, but they honestly are beautiful.

Technically, this isn't a hill; I was just holding my camera crooked.  Those are cows on the horizon, not ants.

Anyway, I learned a bit of SoulCollage.  I'll just let you explore their website.  It may seem voodooey or New Agey to some of my readers, and it can be used that way, but it doesn't have to be.  I appreciated reflecting on various aspects of my personality, or my inner selves, and learning from and about them.  For example:


This card represents my goofy side.  Obviously  I'm going to have to make more cards to adequately express this part of myself.

This represents what I call my shaman.  By "shaman" I don't mean one who uses magic, but simply one who hopes she is used by God to facilitate others' communion with him.   I broke a rule there with the sign's words - it's supposed to be pictures only - but "wine" made me think of "whine" which made me laugh and of the blood of Christ.  I realize in the top left that it looks like I think God is an ape.  What I mean to communicate with that photo is the connection humans have with animals and all of creation.

This one represents me as a member of a large family.  I saw the pic of the boy with the cow first, and it reminded me of Grandpa and Dad.  Then I saw the photo in the upper left and was reminded of my mom.  I grumbled to myself that I hadn't meant to bring my family with me on this retreat, but when I saw the rainbow-colored parrots, I gave up.  It reminded me of a cousin who loves rainbows, then all my cousins.  So here you have a portrayal of various and all family members.  (Dang it.  I just remembered there was a small picture of a turkey in the stack of pictures.  I could have used it for my brother.  Oh well, live and learn.)

This one started out as a portrayal of the dark, or, in Jungian terms, the shadow side of me.  I started with the picture of the forest and the words (oops) from his poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  I added the snakes, then I found the picture of the Jewish boy with wording (oops oops) similar to Frost's, so I put that on there, then I put on the other pics and decided this represents a combination of my shadow self and the part of myself that is interested in learning about other religions.  The dark schizophrenic, if you will.

My stay was short and squeezed in between two sessions of working with kids.  I thought I was being an idiot; I usually can't handle a schedule that loaded, but of course I was instead refreshed and renewed by the time and by Billie's hospitality.  Thank you again, Billie, for the physical and spiritual space and the teaching that you give!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

happy may day

I took a bouquet of flowers to work today and gave everybody one, wishing them a happy May Day.  It was almost as fun as when I was 4 or 5 and left the flowers, knocked on the door, then ran away, but not quite.  I'm going to have to add that step back next year.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"contemplatives in action"

I like a lot of what Ignatian Spirituality has to say.  This morning, the computer tech guy at work was helping me with a problem.  When I logged on, a blank, black window popped up.  He's been trying to get that to go away for several days.  I told him not to bother, because I used it as a reminder to slow down, stay aware, and not get bogged down in my work.  I actually enjoy seeing that window now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

little boys are crammed with energy...and greatness

The other day I took my group boys (ages 6-8) to a play place at a fast-food restaurant; these places are their favorite places to go. 

Unfortunately, whether due to spring or the fact that they were tired from an extra group session the day before or who knows what, they were very hyper and could only follow my directions for a few seconds before they broke our group rules for the use of that space.  After several minutes and numerous prompts, I told the boys that I would have to take them somewhere else because they were not respecting the rules, the site, and the other children playing.  "Let's go to a park!" one boy said.  My first thought was, "There's no way I'm taking you to a park right now; it will seem like a reward for your bad behavior."

Fortunately, I reflected on my decision.  The boys were not acting hyper or breaking the rules in order to be defiant; they simply were too wound up for an enclosed space.  At a park, they could run and yell and, hopefully, use up some energy.

So we went to the park.  The boys asked if they could visit the lake first and throw stones in it as they had done before.  I said yes, just don't go IN the lake.  I prepared myself for wet boys, or, at the very least, sopping wet shoes.  But they followed my direction.  They worked with each other to lift and throw the biggest rocks they could find to make ever-bigger splashes.  As I learned in my special education training, heavy work is a great way to help excited kids calm down.  When I said it was time to go to the playground area, the boys ran the 50+ yards to the equipment, joined a few other kids in their games, and played their hearts out.  They were fine.  When I said it was time to go home, they ran to the car.
I was reminded of something God taught me with these boys a few weeks earlier.  I'd taken them to a labyrinth at a local convent.  I thought the boys would enjoy walking the winding path.

But the boys did not want to walk the path, they wanted to run it and race each other to the center and out again.  At first I tried to stop them and make them walk without racing.  Then I sensed God's response:  "They're 6-year-old boys, not octogenarian nuns.  Let them experience the path in their own way."  I feared at least one of those nuns would come out and yell at us to stop, but that fear was as unfounded as my fear of having to deal with sopping wet boys.
We had a bit of extra time when we left the park the other day, and one of the boys asked if we could go to "that place that winds around and around and you have to stay on the path and not step in the hot lava (outside the path)."  Once I figured out what he meant, we went.  As we were approaching the site, the boy called out excitedly, "I see it!  There it is!"  This time I gave the boys no directions and watched to see what they would do.  I was amazed.  The boys ran, but they ran silently, without speaking or racing.  For several minutes all I heard was the thump, thump, thump of their shoes hitting the bricks.  Their approach to the labyrinth had changed, without me ever telling them that I use it as a time for reflection and communion with God.
When we let others be who they are, rather than who we want to mold them to be, true life bursts forth and wonderful things can happen.  I am so thankful God shut me up that day.

Friday, December 30, 2011

the in-between time

I am enjoying these last few days of 2011; I've found a liminal space inside them, a place of waiting, reflecting, anticipating, being.  A place between the completed/fulfilled anticipation of Advent and Christmas and the expectancy of a new year and season.  My mind fills with thoughts and evaluations of events in the past year as well as plans for the one to come, but I push these thoughts aside for now and go deeper into the liminal space itself.  Does anything lie here, waiting to be discovered?  Or perhaps it is simply a time to be without doing, to sit and look without planning or analyzing.  I walk, I read, I ponder God and what he teaches me.  The past year or so has been difficult; I have lived with great fear and resentment.  I thank God for the grace to be able to see this and, in this liminal time, to be able to separate myself from the fear and resentment somewhat so that I may understand them more fully, if understanding comes.  What do I fear?  Why?  I am resentful because I have expectations that aren't being met, and I am losing patience and hope.  Perhaps it is time to let these expectations go.  I am beginning to discover that the emptying of a life can bring a greater capacity for grace.

Blessings to you; I wish you well in this in-between time and in the year to come.  May the Peace of God be with us.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

giving thanks

A prayer by Johann Kepler, 1571-1630, as printed in The Oxford Book of Prayer, George Appleton, Editor:

O Thou who through the light of nature hast aroused in us a longing for the light of grace, so that we may be raised in the light of Thy majesty, to Thee, I give thanks, Creator and Lord, that Thou allowest me to rejoice in Thy works.  Praise the Lord ye heavenly harmonies, and ye who know the revealed harmonies.  For from Him, through Him and in Him, all is, which is perceptible as well as spiritual; that which we know and that which we do not know, for there is still much to learn.

Today the following phrases grabbed my attention and drew me into further contemplation:
"hast aroused in us a longing..."
"that Thou allowest me (gave me the capacity and ability) to rejoice in Thy works"
"the revealed harmonies"
"from Him, through Him and in Him, all is..."
"for there is still much to learn"

Thank You for reminding me of gratitude; I had forgotten.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Credo for Support

The videos to the left of this column have a very powerful message written by a man with cerebral palsy and his wife. When you view humanity in this way, the whole world changes.

A Credo for Support
c. 1995 by Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift

Throughout history,
people with physical and mental disabilities
have been abandoned at birth,
banished by society,
used as court jesters,
drowned and burned during the Inquisition,
gassed in Nazi Germany,
and still continue to be segregated, institutionalized,
tortured in the name of behavior management,
abused, raped, euthanized, and murdered.
Now, for the first time, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place as fully contributing citizens. The danger is that we will respond with remediation and benevolence rather than equity and respect. And so, we offer you

A Credo for Support

Do Not see my disability as the problem.
Recognize that my disability is an attribute.

Do Not see my disability as a deficit.
It is you who see me as deviant and helpless.

Do Not try to fix me, because I am not broken.
Support me. I can make my contribution to the community in my way.

Do Not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen.
See me as your neighbor. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient.

Do Not try to modify my behavior.
Be still and listen.
What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can.

Do Not try to change me, you have no right.
Help me learn what I want to know.

Do Not hide your uncertainty behind "professional" distance.
Be a person who listens, and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better.

Do Not use theories and strategies on me.
Be with me. And when we struggle with each other, let that give rise to self-reflection.

Do Not try to control me. I have a right
to my power as a person.
What you call non-compliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life.

Do Not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite.
I need to feel entitled to say No if I am to protect myself.

Do Not be charitable towards me.
The last thing the world needs is another Jerry Lewis.
Be my ally against those who exploit me
for their own gratification.

Do Not try to be my friend. I deserve more than that.
Get to know me. We may become friends.

Do Not help me, even if it does make you feel good.
Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me.

Do Not admire me. A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration.
Respect me, for respect presumes equity.

Do Not tell, correct, and lead.
Listen, Support, and Follow.

Do Not work on me.
Work with me.