This week, our Wisdom Council guest post is from the lovely Amber Andreasen. Amber has participated in several Abbey online programs including Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist and Practicing Resurrection through Creativity and Archetypes (which she mentions in her reflection) and has participated in our live intensive Awakening the Creative Spirit. She has also been taking on a greater role in Abbey online retreats as a soul care presence and support for our participants. Read on for Amber's reflections:
It used to be
That when I would wake in the morning
I could with confidence say,
"What am 'I' going to do?"
That was before the seed
Now I am certain:
There are two of us housed
In this body,
Doing the shopping together in the market and
Tickling each other
While fixing the evening food.
Now when I awake
All the internal instruments play the same music
"God, what love-mischief can 'We' do
For the world today?"
For me, being a Monk in the world and Artist of life is all about making love-mischief for the world with my Beloved. I remember vividly my introduction to the idea of being an Artist of life. Journey back with me to April of 2011 where I was about to participate in Christine’s Practicing Resurrection Retreat. The topic for Week One was to be the archetype of the Artist, and I was brimming with excitement. I had been reuniting with my inner Artist, and visions of paints and canvases danced in my head as I imagined my artist-self bursting forth and going wild with expression. THIS WAS GOING TO BE THE WEEK!!
And, it was. But…not in the way I had imagined. My somewhat romanticized vision of the week took an unexpected detour as the evening of Holy Saturday was spent in the “tomb” of the emergency room with a friend, who was then admitted to the hospital. As strongly as I felt the desire to give myself to the retreat, I also felt the desire to stay with her in the hospital. This is where Easter Sunday and the next 11 days were spent.
Come Easter morning, I was sitting next to her bed as she slept. Taking advantage of the pocket of stillness and quiet, I opened my laptop and entered into the retreat. What timely words my inner Artist received: “The Artist takes the materials of life and makes something beautiful from them. Even in the midst of pain and suffering, the Artist can craft meaning… Each new day we are greeted with the energy of the Creator as morning unfurls a blank canvas of possibilities that await us. With each movement of our body, from the opening of our eyes to the way we lift and rise out of bed, we are creating our path in the world. This is the energy of the Artist. The one who takes what is at hand and forms something anew.”
These words gently invited me into a new way of living out of my inner Artist that week as robustly as I had dreamed. I had been given the materials of life with which to create in the very midst of pain and suffering. The hospital room became my blank canvas of possibilities. I was filled anew with excitement at this opportunity to bring beauty to this hospital stay. My inner Monk joined in, and together, Monk and Artist danced for those 11 days. Extending kindness to the hospital staff. Wiping a brow wet with sweat as pain would build and then break. Helping my friend out of bed and to the bathroom. Keeping vigil at night. Offering presence as I sat beside her, holding space for her pain, both physical and emotional. The smallest, most mundane tasks became opportunities to bring beauty and presence, and each day became one where, in the words of Hafiz, I could awake and ask, “God, what love-mischief can we do today?”
While those days were tiring, they were also very enlivening. There was a simplicity to each day as each moment was allowed to unfold. Despite the severe pain that ushered us into those 11 days, both my friend and I are still filled with fond memories of that hospital stay when we think back to that sacred time.
Now, fast forward with me to August of 2013. What love-mischief has the Beloved invited my Monk and Artist to today? We began the day with a joy-filled time of dance at a zumba class with a wonderful group of people. Upon returning home we were greeted by our precious little dog who was ready for her morning walk. Out we went, and she gave me a few opportunities to scoop up the little gifts she left along way. We picked some roses from the front yard to fragrantly adorn the living room, and then set out to the backyard with a gourd of yerba mate tea in hand. We spent a few hours in the backyard, journaling and softening to some grief that wanted to rise, and then eased into a time of lectio divina and centering prayer. We had a moment of being swept away in wonder as a butterfly landed on our toe, and then pondered if the fly buzzing around and landing on our arm might really be just as wonder-full. We noticed our gaze being drawn to one of our favorite branches that looks like a child swinging upside down by her knees, and then noticed the grumbling of our stomach reminding us to pause to nourish our body. We created a lovely salad, and endeavored to eat with mindful attention, having to bring our attention back again…and again…and again (and again and again and again). We made a refreshing summer smoothie for a roommate, and I imagine that later tonight Love-Mischief will whisk me off to do the dishes from the day (okay, by that time it may be more of a nudge than a whisk). Love-mischief can take on all kinds of shapes and forms.
There still are plenty of days when I wake up to “I” – to my plans and agenda. There are days where it seems that my internal instruments are creating nothing but dissonant chaos as they play competing songs, and days where I find myself repeatedly saying “oh yeah, love-mischief.” Such is the disorder and messiness of being human. In fact, most days I feel like more of a beginner on this path than ever. Here, Love gently invites me to fine tune the ear of my heart until I hear again the music of “We” ~ the music of love-mischief ~ and then strings, piano, brass, woodwinds, and percussion alike join back together in harmony. In these moments, I am learning compassion as I allow myself to be showered by the grace of always beginning again. I am discovering that each new beginning can be a celebrated homecoming wherein Monk and Artist invite me once more to dance with them to the edges of love as we learn to stay awake and soften to each moment, taking up the canvas and brush of the raw stuff of life to bring beauty and repose to the world.
Shhhhhh. Listen. Can you hear the music of “We”? What kind of love-mischief might your Monk and Artist be drawn to make with God today?