Invitation to Dance: Holy Waiting

We continue our theme this month of "Holy Waiting" through the practice of dance.

I invite you into a movement practice.  Allow yourself just 5-10 minutes this day to pause and listen and savor what arises.

  • Begin with a full minute of slow and deep breathing.  Let your breath bring your awareness down into your body.  When thoughts come up, just let them go and return to your breath. Hold this image of "Holy Waiting" as the gentlest of intentions, planting a seed as you prepare to step into the dance. You don't need to think this through or figure it out, just notice what arises.
  • Play the piece of music below ("Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant, a song about Mary's holy "yes") and let your body move in response, without needing to guide the movements. Listen to how your body wants to move through space in response to your breath. Remember that this is a prayer, an act of deep listening. Pause at any time and rest in stillness again. For this month especially, sit with waiting for the impulse to move and see what arises.
  • After the music has finished, sit for another minute in silence, connecting again to your breath. Just notice your energy and any images rising up.
  • Is there a word or image that could express what you encountered in this time? (You can share about your experience, or even just a single word in the comments section below or join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there.)
  • If you have time, spend another five minutes journaling in a free-writing form, just to give some space for what you are discovering.
  • To extend this practice, sit longer in the silence before and after and feel free to play the song through a second time. Often repetition brings a new depth.


*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.

Prayer for Awakening (a love note from your online Abbess)

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Prayer Upon Awakening

“The breezes at dawn
Have secrets to tell you;
Don’t go back to sleep.”
-Rumi

What force gently lifts back
night’s inky black gown
studded with shimmering stars,

where soot turns to umber,
seawater to crimson,
rose to saffron, and then

to that brilliant morning shade of blue,
spilling forth like the seven silk scarves of
Salome in a dance of revelation?

What is being awakened in you
in that threshold moment,
when a thousand black crows scatter to the west

to chase down the fleeing night,
when the souls of the dead
are said to recede with the evaporating starlight,

when the winds whisper
their secret dreams
for the day ahead?

Are you listening, in those first moments,
to the rustle of Eos’* wings rising in the sky
as she breaks through the fruitful darkness?

Carry all your sorrow from yesterday
in jars of dew, just like her tears over
a son’s broken body torn in two.

Sprinkle them, like holy water,
bathing the fields of possibility
and let your heart awaken once again.

*Eos is the Greek goddess of the dawn whose son Memnon was killed in battle

-Christine Valters Paintner

Dearest monks and artists,

I am not an early riser by nature, but I do love the times when I am awake for the dawn. And so these winter days living at 53° latitude means that the sky does not even begin to get light until eight in the morning and the hour that follows is often a gorgeous display of pink clouds and golden light emerging. In the summer, the sky is only dark for a few short hours at night, and so this wide embrace of darkness is welcome to this winter-loving monk.

Most mornings I arise and begin the day with my yoga practice as a way of moving into the stillness of my body. Then I sit in the silence and witness this spectacle outside my window to prepare my heart for lectio divina. Morning prayer is an ancient monastic tradition. In one of my favorite books of all time, Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast writes:

"The hours are seasons of the day, and they were originally understood in a mythical way. Earlier generations of our human race, not ruled by alarm clocks, saw the hours personified, encountered them as messengers of eternity in the natural flow of time growing, blossoming, bearing fruit. In the unfolding rhythm of everything that grows and changes on earth each hour had a character and presence infinitely richer and more complex than our sterile clock time."

He goes on to describe the Hours as "the inner structure for living consciously and responsively through the stages of the day" and describes time in this monastic perspective, as the opportunity for encounter. "We live in the now by attuning ourselves to the calls of each moment, listening and responding to what each hour, each situation, brings."

When I first read Brother David's book many years ago it transformed by relationship to the practice of praying the Hours. Suddenly I saw the poetry of them, the grace of honoring each moment's unique invitation, and the gift of welcoming in the energies of rising, fullness, falling, and emptiness as central to my experience of life, but also witnessed in the unfolding of each day. It has helped me to embrace the movements of my life and embrace the times of rest as fully as the times of energy,

I am savoring these morning times of witnessing the sun's rise in her low and gentle arc across the sky. I am listening into the question which morning asks: "What is awakening in you?" And I find myself in kinship with monks, who for hundreds of years have bowed down at this moment in gratitude for another day.

Arising with the dawn and attending to the slow emergence of light, is a beautiful practice for Advent. In these Advent days of waiting and holy anticipation, it is easy to sometimes fall asleep to the real depth and meaning of this sacred season. Beneath the shouts of advertisers and endless marketing and our own scurrying around to fulfill our sense of obligation, there is a quiet miracle happening. God is being birthed into the world again and again. And Advent reminds us this holy birthing is happening in each of us as well.

When Betsey Beckman and I led the Hildegard of Bingen pilgrimage in Germany last September, we began each day praying through our bodies with a musical version of Psalm 23 by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan called All of My Days. Betsey has created a video to guide you through the prayer. You can find it here, just be sure to scroll down the page to #3 Movement Prayer to find it. Let your body celebrate this hour of awakening!

If you are a writer, please consider submitting a guest post to our monk in the world series.

There is a new Poetry Party on "Holy Waiting" at the Abbey and an invitation to share your word for 2014 with the Abbey community with chances to win prizes.

And consider whether you are feeling the call to join us for Coming Home to the Body (an online retreat for women) or Exile and Coming Home (an online retreat for men) in the new year! Both would make a meaningful Christmas gift, when so many of us have too much stuff already. Plus there are discounts when you register 2 or more people together!

With great and growing love,

Christine

Monk in the World guest post submissions welcome!

button-monkIf you follow along at the Abbey, you know that over the last six months we have had a great Monk in the World guest post series from fellow monks, authors, bloggers. It has been a gift to read how ordinary people are living lives of depth and meaning in the midst of the challenges of real life.

I have been pondering lately how many talented writers and artists there are in this Abbey community, and so starting in January, we are opening up the series to submissions from YOU. The reflection will be included in our weekly newsletter which goes out to 8000 subscribers.

Details:

  • Please click this link to read a selection of the posts and get a feel for the tone and quality.
  • Submit your own post of 750-1000 words on the theme of "How do I live as a monk in the world? How do I bring contemplative presence to my work and family?" It works best if you focus your reflection on one aspect of your life or a practice you have, or you might reflect on how someone from the monastic tradition has inspired you. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a poem on this theme.
  • Please include a head shot and brief bio (50 words max). You are welcome to include 1-2 additional images if they help to illustrate your reflection in meaningful ways. Please make sure the file size of each the images is smaller than 1MB.
  • We will be accepting submissions between now and January 31st for the first half of 2014.  We reserve the right to make edits to the content as needed (or to request you to make edits) and submitting your reflection does not guarantee publication on the Abbey blog, but we will do our best to include as many of you as possible.
  • Email Christine by January 31st with your submission and include the reflection pasted into the body of your email and attach your photo(s).
  • We will try to be back in touch with you within two weeks of your submission to let you know if edits are needed and/or when we have scheduled your post to appear.

Invitation to Poetry: Holy Waiting

Augustine Baron - Photo Party - Holy Waiting

Welcome to Poetry Party #73!

button-poetryI select an image (*photo above by Augustine Baron) and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your own poem. Scroll down and add it in the comments section below or join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there.

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog (if you have one), Facebook, or Twitter, and encourage others to come join the party!  (If you repost the photo, please make sure to include the credit link below it and link back to this post inviting others to join us).

We began this month with a  Community Visio Divina practice with a beautiful piece of art from Mary Southard and followed up with our Photo Party on the theme of "Holy Waiting." (You are most welcome to still participate).  We continue this theme in our Poetry Party this month.

An essential aspect of listening for what is being birthed through us is waiting, watching, listening, being. The photo above, shared by fellow monk in the world Augustine Baron at this month's Photo Party, shimmers with the sacredness of ordinary moments of waiting. Waiting on a bench for the bus to come, waiting at the dentist's office, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the results of a medical test, waiting to hear about a new job. Write a poem which celebrates these ordinary kinds of holy waiting.

You can post your poem either in the comment section below*or you can join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group (with more than 1000 members!) and post there.

*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.

Give Me a Word 2014: Fifth Annual Abbey Giveaway

Share your Word for 2014

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner's fire and be stripped down to one's holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.

Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word –  this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – "give me a word" we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into.  The word which chooses us has the potential to transform us.

  • What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold in your life?

Share your word in the comments section below by Monday, January 6, 2014 and you are automatically entered for the prize drawing (prizes listed below). Last year we had 840 people share!

A free 12-day online mini-retreat to help your word choose you. . .

This year I am offering all Abbey newsletter subscribers a gift: a free 12-day online mini-retreat with a suggested practice for each day to help your word choose you and to deepen into your word once it has found you.

Sign up here and you can start your mini-retreat today. Once you subscribe you will receive a confirmation email with access to the mini-retreat content (and you are free to unsubscribe at any time).  If you are already a subscriber, the invitation will be in this week's email newsletter.

Win a Prize – Random Drawing Giveaway on January 6th!

I am delighted to offer some wonderful gifts from the Abbey:

So please share your word (and it would be wonderful to include a sentence about what it means for you) with us below.  Subscribe to the Abbey newsletter for your free gift. Share the love with others and invite them to participate.  Then stay tuned – on January 6th I will announce the prize winners!

If this is your first time commenting at the Abbey, or you are including a link, your comment will need to be approved before appearing, which usually takes less than 24 hours.

Monk in the World guest post: Judy Smoot

I've known Judy Smoot for several years now, first connecting through Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist, then several other online classes, and finally the pleasure of spending time with Judy in person at our Awakening the Creative Spirit intensive.

Judy is a fellow Benedictine oblate, a spiritual director, a lover of the expressive arts, and the founder and director of Always We Begin Again, a nonprofit dedicated to serving those with chronic illness and their caregivers through contemplative and creative programs. I am delighted to share Judy's wisdom here with this community on being a monk in the world:

“Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands around you will be saved.”

 – St. Seraphim of Sarov

Judy SmootFor reasons I did not understand at the time, this gentle piece of wisdom intersected my life in 2007 and became my heart’s desire.  At that time, six years ago, I had no idea what “a peaceful spirit” would come to mean in my own faith journey, nor what would be undone and recreated in my spirit to acquire this peaceful spirit for myself and others.

Since 2007, I completed training for spiritual direction and began companioning others personally and through retreat work.  I discovered St. Benedict and committed to the Oblate way of life, resigned a long-time staff position in a church, began a nonprofit ministry, and enrolled in an expressive arts program — all amidst our son returning from 2-1/2 years serving with the Peace Corps, gaining a beautiful and caring daughter-in-law, companioning my father as he left his human life on earth, and navigating various medical issues that come with age.  All of these transitions have resulted in relationships ending and new ones beginning, old habits released and life-giving practices welcomed — the shedding of the old to make way for the new has been terribly painful at times.  In retrospect, I am pretty certain I would not have entered into this turmoil of life-giving change had it not been forced upon me in quite a few instances.  As I reflect on how I “handled” all of this life change (and how it “handled” me some days), I am not entirely confident calling myself monk, mystic, or contemplative.  I recall the heat of the fire that surrounded me on some days and don’t remember feeling at peace or grounded in all the uncertainty.  Is this mindfulness and truth-telling part of what makes one contemplative ?

In January 2010, I began Way of the Monk Path of the Artist.  As an introduction, we were invited to offer a six-word autobiography.  Six words.  Can’t be done.   It could be a long retreat experience and doubt began to creep in. I wondered if this was the place in which I was to settle for 12 weeks.    Once I moved past the initial resistance, the words came quickly — “Contemplative seeking to offer spacious sanctuary.”  I have come to appreciate the word, “seeking”.  WOTM was exactly where I needed to be.  In 2011, Awakening the Creative Spirit confirmed I was beginning a journey toward something of significance.

Like some of you, I have redefined my understanding of what it means to be a monk.  I also have redefined “artist” – neither being attributes I would have assigned to myself even a few years ago, but characteristics that I now claim as part of my soul’s story.   As I have entered more deeply the process of “naming and claiming” (also known to me as “taking personal responsibility – ugh), the Contemplative Seeking to Offer Spacious Sanctuary has become a fully alive person living as a monk in the world.

I spend a lot of time tethered to a very non-contemplative computer.  As I write this, I am waiting for a call from a computer programmer about web updates I am unable to do on my own.  As director for this new nonprofit, I must squeeze in my first love of serving people simultaneous with board development, creating a strategic plan, fund raising, maintaining blogs and Facebook accounts — all of the details that support the end result of programming for those we serve.  I try to create a somewhat contemplative work space in which all of this can occur.  But, as I look around, my immediate space is, frankly, a mess.  I am fully in the world.  Yet, I sense the monk expanding within me.

The Abbey supported me in establishing my Rule of Life in 2010.  It reads,

I choose to live:

true to my authentic self;

prayerfully;

simply and without hurry;

within supportive communities;

creatively;

with abandon and confidence; and

as a mystic living in the world.

Some days (months), I do this well.  Others, not so much.  It is life’s ebb and flow.   My desire to live mindfully and truthfully keeps me in a seeking mode.  The constant change of life’s circumstances keeps me humbly reliant on God’s provision.  God’s peace is not the same as the world’s peace.  That is important for me to remember.  Often, God’s peace is not a warm, fuzzy, feel good sensation as much as a strong anchor holding me secure during raging storms of uncertainty and risk taking as I continue to walk the edges of life pushing out to the horizon (my word for 2013).

Judy Smoot 1.JPGIn 2005 I was blessed to travel to San Francisco with my husband for a five-day work trip he had in the area.  We found ourselves returning repeatedly to Grace Cathedral and its labyrinths.  I now realize that the monk began to push herself into my world during that trip.  My husband took the below picture as I walked the outdoor labyrinth.  The poem followed a short time later.  Patience.  Contemplation.   Risk-Taking.  Trust.  Prayer.  Truth.  Simplicity.  Community.   The peaceful spirit has taken root within me.  As it has become authentic for me, it spills into the lives of others seeking a sanctuary, seeking a refuge from the chaos that we all live within.  Are lives saved as a result?  I cannot say for sure.  But I do trust that God works with my meager offering, and isn’t that enough for each of us to offer as monks in the world?

Thank you for hearing my story.

 

The Way is Made by Walking

She walks a labyrinth path
to enter the soft, strong sanctuary of her soul
Ideas and images weave with joyful abundance
through the channels of her heart
seeking their voice in one word of simplicity.
Freedom takes flight as she contemplates “what if?”,
and wonders of God’s invitation for a “sacred yes.”
Compassion for the least of these rises from her
deep silence with the Holy One.
The word,
Refuge

Judy Smoot is a Benedictine Oblate, spiritual director/retreat leader, and founder of the non-profit ministry Always We Begin Again providing spiritual care for people living with a chronic diagnosis and those who support them on their journey.   She is a 2007 graduate of the Columbus-based spiritual direction program, Wellstreams, and is currently a student at Expressive Arts Florida Institute in Sarasota, Florida.  She enjoys facilitating creative-based experiences for those desiring to express their faith and prayer life through expressive art.  Judy and her husband are currently following their dream to live more simply and close to nature by building a woodland cottage for themselves and visiting friends and family about 50 miles from where they currently reside.   They anticipate a spring 2014 move.

Invitation to Photography: Holy Waiting

Welcome to this month's Abbey Photo Party!

button-photographyI select a theme and invite you to respond with images.

We began this month with a Community Lectio (Visio) Divina practice (stop by to pray with this beautiful image from Mary Southard).  As I prayed with Mary's art I felt held in this womb of waiting and watchfulness, attentiveness and presence, of sinking into the gift of stillness and knowing this is necessary before the birth can come.

With our overall theme of the year at the Abbey as discernment, I love the idea of exploring the gifts of waiting, being fallow, embracing rest, as essential dimensions of listening to what we are each called to birth into the world.

I invite you for this month's Photo Party to play with this idea as you go out in the world to receive images in response. As you walk hold this image of holy waiting and be ready to see what is revealed to you.

You can share images you already have which illuminate the theme, but I encourage you also to go for a walk with the theme in mind and see what you discover.

You are also welcome to post photos of any other art you create inspired by the theme.  See what stirs your imagination!

How to participate:

You can post your photo either in the comment section below* (there is now an option to upload a file with your comment) or you can join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there. Feel free to share a few words about the process of receiving this image and how it speaks of the "Holy Waiting" for you.

*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.

Earth Monastery Project: Grant Winners Announced

earthmonasteryprojectThis past autumn, Abbey of the Arts launched a new initiative – the Earth Monastery Project – as a way of encouraging creative visions for nourishing an earth-cherishing consciousness.

We had a marvelous batch of applicants for this first round and John and I along with Wisdom Council members Cheryl, Stacy, and Richard, truly had a difficult time discerning who should receive our first grants.

After much prayerful consideration, we are pleased to announce the winners:

  • Martha Brunell and the Monarch Waystation Project creating an oasis in northern Illinois "for our dwindling monarchs to eat, rest, and lay eggs and for other wildlife to thrive."
  • Terri Stewart and the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition Garden Box Project creating a mentoring and gardening project for youth affected by incarceration in Seattle's most impoverished zip code.
  • Candice Tritch & Andrew Janssen and the Dance Alchemy Project creating a "collaborative dance documentary that shows a universal respect for the Earth and desire for peace on it."

More details will be shared as their projects unfold and next summer each person will provide a full report to our community so we can share in their vision and inspiration. For now, we are thrilled to partner with such amazing folks dedicated to cultivating a vision of the earth as our primary monastery.

There were many other proposals submitted worthy of funding, so it was a real challenge and privilege to discern where to channel our funds.

The next round of applications will be accepted from March 1-April 30, 2014 for funding in the second half of 2014.

How can you support the Earth Monastery Project?

  • Help spread the word and encourage those in your community to apply!
  • Consider making a donation to the Earth Monastery ProjectAdd to Cart
  • If you make purchases through Amazon.com, use this affiliate link Amazon Home Page and all proceeds will go directly to this fund. This is a simple way to support us while doing your Christmas shopping!

Monk in the World guest post: Mary Earle

I first encountered Mary Earle's work several years ago in her book Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness and Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness. Her books helped me fall even more in love with the balanced way of monasticism and to see it as a profoundly healing path as someone who lives with chronic illness. Benedictine spirituality has taught me tremendous gentleness and compassion toward my body.  Mary, who is an Episcopal priest and spiritual director, has written many more wonderful books as well including Celtic Christian Spirituality and Marvelously Made: Gratefulness and the Body. I am delighted to share her wisdom here about being a monk in the world:

Dancing with Creatures

MaryEarle-1567They wake up, bright eyed and bushy tailed. They charge out onto the deck, ready to catch up on smells, sounds, light and evidence of visitations during the night. Our household includes me and my husband, a very large cat and three border collies. It is these creatures that so intimately guide my life as a monk in the world at present. They always take me back to the world—to its physicality, to its immediate presence, to its wild freedom.

I am writing with the dogs at my feet. They have just come in from an intense game of ball (border collies do not do relaxed games of ball).  These friends and companions have given me the choreography for dancing as monk in the backyard, in the neighborhood, in the park. Maggie, who is now 14 ½, and Graford and Fiona, both four years old, love these routines. Sometimes they come back in the house redolent with the oils of rosemary or thyme. Sometimes they smell distinctly of Copper Canyon daisy. And occasionally they have the stinky odor of some other animal’s urine, having relished a morning roll in the grass.

Graford

Graford

My love of animals began in my earliest days. Our first border collie, Chico, came to live in my house when I was a toddler. Over the years, various cats and dogs have companioned both my family of origin and the household I created with my husband Doug and our sons, Bryan and Jason. I have always known that these creatures are kith and kin. Their ways of knowing, seeing and accompanying have formed my own patterns. They know intuitively that there is a right balance for rest, play, work, attention (prayer) and eating.

I used to think that my sense of the animals’ wisdom and companionship was a little strange, and kept this information to myself. Then, in the mid 1980s, a dear friend gave me a volume of Celtic prayers. Soon I found myself drawn ever more deeply into the literature of that tradition. When I stumbled upon Beasts and Saints, a collection of stories of desert elders, Celtic saints and their companion animals, edited by Helen Waddell, I realized my own monk-dance had ancient origins.

In those stories about Celtic saints, we have the wondrous examples of animals seen in their otherness. They are not romanticized, nor are they deemed “quaint.” These creatures are capable of leading us into a way of living and being that invites befriending the other. These stories remind me that the animals have their own manner of perceiving and knowing. They are outward and visible signs of God’s creative fruitfulness, capable of surprising us with their own capacities for memory, intelligence and skill.

The 6th Century Irish saint Columbanus wrote, “If you wish to know the Creator, come to know the creatures.” Because these creatures come forth from the same source as humans, we are related and inter-related. We are created to live interdependently. And these creatures, great and small, may heal us of our peculiar tendency to behave as if we had brought the world into being. The creatures remind us that none of us made ourselves. And they remind us that biodiversity is an outward and visible sign of divine creativity and design.

As “co-hermits” (to use a term for these animal companions from the Celtic saints), our border collies help us pattern our days. Every morning, weather permitting (which in central Texas is more often than not), I spend time on our screen porch with the dogs, the Daily Office and my journal. From time to time, Graford will charge out into the yard, intent on some small movement in the trees. His alertness leads me to put down my pen and behold the “Book of Creation,” that vast book of ongoing revelation. Graford’s ability to see and hear what I cannot continually and playfully reminds me of my various limitations. His phenomenal awareness of sound, smell and movement serves to direct my gaze.

Once he has checked out what is going on, Graford trots back up to the porch. Sometimes he sits by my chair and waits for me to start a little conversation: “What did you see? What did you smell? What have you got to tell me?” And sometimes he just wants to sit, head on my foot, savoring our friendship.

In my various bouts with chronic illness, these dogs and cats have been such kind and healing presences. At one point, when I was on bed rest for a long time, our cat Grendel, who was an adept spiritual director, came and practiced the “laying on of paws” on my chest. Whenever I would start to get up, he would fix me with his big hazel eyes and ever so slightly prick my chest with his claws. It was his way of saying, “Stay put. Let your body heal. Let go.”

Befriending, companioning, tending, teaching—the creatures who share my life as a monk in the world are active participants in the process of healing and praying, resting and being made new. They make me laugh. They help me to see anew. They say again and again, “We are with you.” They remind me that my own vision is always partial, always but one perspective. They call me to be mindful of the stunning variety of life around the planet, and to find ways to honor that variety.

Like the Celtic saints and their “beasts,” these dogs and cats stand in their own identities, offering steadfast friendship and insight. As “co-hermits,” they offer such lively possibilities for rhythms of prayer, rest, befriending and activity.

“If you wish to know the Creator, come to know the creatures.”

Mary C. Earle is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and Episcopal priest. Her most recent book, Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love—Annotated and Explained, is now available from SkyLight Paths Publishing. Her other works have focused on the Celtic prayer tradition, the desert elders, and the spirituality of living with illness. Her website is http://marycearle.org/.

Community Lectio (Visio) Divina: Art by Mary Southard

Mary SOuthard

Artwork: “In the Shelter of Your Wings” © Mary Southard, CSJ
Used with permission courtesy of www.marysouthardart.org

With December comes a new invitation for contemplation. This month I invite you into a visio divina practice, which is an adaptation of lectio divina. In visio divina we are invited to see with the eyes of our heart, much in the way lectio calls us to listen with the ears of our heart.

I was drawn to this piece of art by Mary Southard for the month of December because we are entering the season of Advent, which is a season of waiting, and in the northern hemisphere, a time to enter more intentionally into the expanse of night and dreamtime. These darkening days call us to surrender our own plans and initiative and yield to the call of mystery found in long nights. The birthing which we await at Christmas only comes through this period of gestation and leaning into the unknown.

How Community Lectio (and Visio) Divina works:

button-lectioEach month there will be a passage selected from scripture, poetry, or other sacred texts (and at some point we will engage in some visio and audio divina as well with art and music).

For the year I am choosing an overarching theme of discernment. I feel like the Abbey is in the midst of some wonderful transition, movement, and expansion.

How amazing it would be to discern together the movements of the Spirit at work in the hearts of monks around the world.

I invite you to set aside some time this week to pray with the text below. Here is a Visio Divina handout (feel free to reproduce this handout and share with others as long as you leave in the attribution at the bottom – thank you!)

Lean into silence, pray with the image, look for what shimmers, allow the images and memories to unfold, tend to the invitation, and then sit in stillness.

After you have prayed with the image (and feel free to pray with it more than once – St. Ignatius wrote about the deep value of repetition in prayer, especially when something feels particularly rich) spend some time journaling what insights arise for you.

How is this image calling to your dancing monk heart in this moment of your life?

What does this image have to offer to your discernment journey of listening moment by moment to the invitation from the Holy?

What wisdom emerged that may be just for you, but may also be for the wider community?

Sharing Your Responses

Please share the fruits of your visio divina practice in the comments below or at our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group which you can join here. There are almost 1000 members and it is a wonderful place to find connection and community with others on this path.

You might share the word or phrase that shimmered, the invitation that arose from your prayer, or artwork you created in response. There is something powerful about naming your experience in community and then seeing what threads are woven between all of our responses.

You can see the full fall calendar of invitations here>>

Join the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group here>>