If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.
Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.
-Mary Oliver, excerpted from "Roses, Late Summer"
Easter blessings my dear monk friends!
I hope your Lent was a rich and meaningful journey through the desert to the place of your resurrection.
Beyond bunnies, baskets, chocolate, and jelly beans, Easter calls us to the profound practice of resurrection of the body. Resurrection is about entering the fire of our passion and letting it burn brightly. It is about what enlivens us and makes us feel vital, releasing fear and anxiety over what is to come, and embracing this moment here and now. Resurrection calls us to experience the full weight and lightness of our physical being. I think resurrection is about discovering this "unstinting happiness" Mary Oliver describes in her poem above.
In the Abbey's online Lenten art retreat, we engaged the metaphor of pilgrimage as a guide for the soul's journey through these last forty days. It was a beautiful and moving journey as participants explored their own inner desert places, landscapes, border crossings, and more. Ultimately, pilgrimage always leads us back home again. Resurrection is about discovering the home within each one of us, remembering that we are called to be at home in the world, even as we experience ourselves exiled again and again.
I have just returned from my own nine-day pilgrimage up the east coast to visit old friends and family, some of whom I hadn't seen in twenty years. It was a whirlwind trip back to the place of my own upbringing, a homeland for me - New York City and New England- as well as connection with relatives on my mother's side of the family. While I knew this would be a Holy Week journey, I did not realize how much of my travels would lead me back to this place of inner resurrection.
I began the week in Maryland with the warm hospitality of one of my mother's dearest friends, on to New Jersey to see my 91-year old great aunt, and then Manhattan to see one of my best friends from childhood and walk along the streets which shaped our shared world and memories. I passed through Rhode Island and Connecticut to visit with my mother's cousins. On Holy Thursday I sat in a cemetery in Massachusetts, next to my mother's and grandparents' headstone, and I asked them for their blessings on this next phase of big adventures in my life. On Easter Sunday I was in Maine visiting my aunt and her husband and took a long walk I had taken several times before, but this time stumbled upon an unmarked hiking trail that went into the woods. There was not a single other human soul there and I reveled in the time to be among trees and let them teach me about resurrection.
At each place I found myself experiencing a deep love and sense of kinship with all of these people I am connected to through blood or memory or both. I listened to my own heart's longings which will bring me to a new home this summer. I could feel my mother's presence shimmering throughout the week, singing me forward, singing me home wherever I found myself. As crazy as my schedule was (and I rarely plan such a hurried trip) I was able to arrive fully present to each moment. I was able to welcome the grace of stories which cascaded around me time after time. Stories of my mother and father, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, great grandparents, cousins, friends, the stories which are my stories, woven into the fabric of my own unfolding. I will practice resurrection in these days ahead by making space to continue listening for the wisdom bubbling up in me in the wake of this journey.
What would it mean for you to practice resurrection? How might you let your dreams and passion be brought back to life in the coming months? What does it mean for you to return home to your body and yourself?
If you are a soul care practitioner (someone who offers soul care to others through spiritual direction, retreats, chaplaincy, pastoring, counseling, or other kinds of presence – whether paid or volunteer) I invite you to consider making a commitment to your own journey of resurrection during this season ahead. The Soul Care Institute is a series of online and live classes providing a nourishing space to gather with peers and explore ways to deeply reflect, restore, and renew yourself so that you can sustain the vital work you do for others. At SCI we believe that the only way to sustain our passion and commitment to the care of others' souls, is to make our own self-care and soul nourishment an absolute priority. It is so much easier with support, insight, and guidance in a sacred context to discovering your own best practices.
We have two online classes available which start next Monday, April 16th and both have just a couple of spaces left (limited to 15 participants) – click and read over the descriptions (or scroll down) for Live it to Give it: Essential Practices of Soul Nourishment and Self-Care (taught by Kayce Stevens Hughlett – see a reflection from her below) and Earth as Soul Care Ministry: The Wild Heart of Ministry (taught by your online Abbess) and see if one stirs something in your heart.
Take just a few minutes now to pause and breathe and check in with what you need this spring to nourish your own personal resurrection. Are you looking for some deep insights into ways to offer yourself a radical experience of self-care and cultivate practices which will help you to flourish? Or are you seeking a deep re-connection to the earth and her wisdom for your own soul care and want to explore what nature has to offer for your ministry to others?
(I posted a video meditation last year on the four sacred elements which you might want to revisit and see what longings are stirred in response- Everything is holy now).
This is your last chance to register for these two classes! Each one offers a rich community of shared wisdom facilitated by seasoned teachers. Gather with a flock of like-hearted souls to practice listening deeply to yourself and your own longings for new life. The feedback we have received on previous online classes has been tremendous. Offer yourself this gift and let your soul bloom this spring.