Wisdom Council: Guest Post from Trish Bruxvoort Colligan

I am excited to share another Wisdom Council guest post, this time from Trish Bruxvoort Colligan. I met Trish first virtually several years ago when she was blogging and felt immediate kinship to her presence and spirit, not to mention her beautiful music which I often use in retreat settings and in several online courses. It was a gift to finally meet her at the Spiritual Directors International conference in San Francisco where she and her husband Richard were offering their musical gifts. Trish is working on a new album called Wild Acre, which I know is going to be gorgeous because I had the privilege of hearing some of the songs as part of the Women on the Threshold program she helped to co-create with me last fall. Read on for Trish’s reflections about being a monk in the world:

Trish Bruxvoort ColliganRecently, I’ve been thinking about wildness.

When I ponder what it means for me to be a “monk in the world” and an “artist of everyday life”, I am drawn to the word noticing. A simple act of paying attention to what’s in front of me: creative impulses, dreams, emotional and bodily sensations. What’s peeking shyly at me from around the corner? What timpani is drumming me awake in the night? What themes and words am I finding woven and re-woven into the fabric of my days? What patterns are present in my relationships?

That which I am able (and willing) to notice over time often heralds something larger at play. Even (perhaps especially) the things that seem disruptive or adversarial at first blush have a way of becoming trusted midwives to what is being born from the waters of my life. Lately, it is wildness that’s been showing up.

I’m in the midst of recording a new CD, called “Wild Acre”. The central lyric in the title track – which also sets the tone for the entire collection – is this: “Keep a wild acre alive in your love.” To allow a margin of mystery and unknown around the edges of a vision, plan or dream is to trust that there is more to be born than can possibly be predicted. “Your love” may speak to anything which one is passionately engaged: a primary relationship, a creative endeavor, a project or event, a community, or ones spiritual life or relationship with self.

Certainly, there’s been wildness about this recording. Setting out, I envisioned this project as wider than myself – an intentionally-set landscape beyond my solo capabilities, requiring me to lean into community to bring it forth. I also wanted to be mentored by, to practice the very wildness I’m singing about. I dug into a landscape only partially tamed: there was a vision, of course, with seeds, tools and paths toward fruition; and around it, a margin of wildness holding space for mystery, beauty and grace to startle and arise at ripe moments. I sensed people, places and ideas yet to crack open; scripting the finest detail would be to harden over the soil of their emergence. Here we are, then, plans in one hand, wildness in the other, dialoging, dreaming, shaping as we go.

It’s worth noting that wildness is not wilderness, which refers to landscapes untouched. One scientist describes wildness as “the voice of a multitude…working together within a system.”

The Monk-Artist in me has noticed wildness smiling back at me from around many corners of my life. Take motherhood, for instance. My husband Richard and I are parents to our twelve year-old son Sam. The wilds of adolescence have taken up residence in our home… and boy, has it been an adventure!

Sam’s entering a stage of rapid development in which he’ll ripen and awaken in startling ways. To witness him exploring his presence and influence and trying on new ways of thinking and putting himself out there has been exciting, and our conversations are newly rich and thoughtful. Eager as I am to see where the next few years will take Sam (and his parents) in his discoveries, I am also grieving the boy he was and our more tender mama-son connection. Maybe because we’ve always been so close, and adolescence is a journey to greater independence, finding our new groove has not always been a smooth ride.

One recent misty morning found Sam and me ready to board a paddleboat on a small lake in upper Michigan. As we prepared to push off, I felt the familiar impulse to instruct, as when he was younger. Was his life jacket buckled? Did he remember how to steer? Could he manage paddling with his fractured toe and air cast boot? Would he think to secure the rope around the boat’s cleat hitch once he loosed the boat? All fine things to take note of, but perhaps a bit exaggerated for a generally conscientious twelve-year-old boy.

I had my sights on the center of the lake for an easy float on the quiet morning. Sam’s determined expression and curious eyes suggested he had other designs on the voyage. I noticed the agitation in my chest and the growing tension between the urge to direct versus wanting to let go when the though of wildness floated to the surface.

I decided to be a silent observer, to let Sam go with his eagerness and take us where he wanted to go. As I sat quietly in the passenger’s seat, Sam steered us toward a neighbor’s floating dock. Round and round the dock we went: approaching, examining, reversing and coming in from another direction. All the while, he never uttered his objective and – though I was starting to form an idea of his goal – I didn’t ask. I simply watched him, in the end, helped when he asked for my assistance, and took a few pictures for posterity. His aim? To line up the boat’s ropes to the cleat hitches on the dock so we could together stand atop it and raise our hands to the sky. Just because we could. Once that was accomplished, Sam was ready to climb back into the boat, dock it at the cottage, and head indoors to check in with the rest of the crew.

Had I overly directed Sam or infringed upon his wilder boating notions, we probably would still would have enjoyed ourselves. But I’m pretty sure we would have missed out on Sam’s paddleboat navigation investigation and his delight of discovery. As my luck would have it, Sam’s learning came in handy a few days later when Sam came to my rescue as I floundered near the dock, unable to steer the boat to its rightful place.

If these teenage years unfold in our house as they do in homes across the globe, the tides will rise and fall in unexpected ways. As much as I am able, I intend to keep a wild acre alive here.

Click here to find out more about Trish’s work>>

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