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What if you bowed
before every dandelion you met
and wrote love letters to
squirrels and pigeons
who crossed your path?
What if scrubbing the dishes became
an act of single reverence for the gift
of being washed clean, and what if the
rhythmic percussion of chopping carrots
became the drumbeat of your dance?
What if you stepped into the shower
each morning only to be baptized anew
and sent forth to serve the grocery bagger,
the bank teller, and the bus driver
through simple kindness?
And what if the things that make
your heart dizzy with delight were
no longer stuffed into the basement
of your being and allowed out to play
in the lush and green fields?
There are two ways to live in this world:
As if everything were enchanted
or nothing at all.
There is no in between, although you
keep trying to live this divided life knowing
deep down something is awry.
You have lived long enough
with this tearing apart.
Come out into the wide world
and discover there companions and guides
at every turn, and even those who summon
curses from your heart have
a divine spark within them bright enough
to invite wonder.
—Christine Valters Paintner
Dearest monks and artists,
I am back in Galway for a few days following our Hildegard of Bingen pilgrimage
in Germany. It is always hard to return from an experience of great depth and
meaning and then try to express in words its essence.
I am grateful for so many things: to dwell in Hildegard’s landscape again and
feel the power of viriditas that shaped her imagination, to gather with a group
of delightful, open-hearted, and joy-filled pilgrims and be with a community of
dancing monks, to partner with my dear friend Betsey again as well as our
wonderful leadership team in supporting the pilgrims’ journeys, to wander in
the woods for hours and remember this as the place where I feel most alive, to
be well-nourished and cared for at the hotel where we stayed, and my own
ongoing journey of being breaking open again and again.
At our closing ritual we gave each pilgrim two gifts: a feather and a pine cone.
Hildegard described herself as being a “feather on the breath of God”
and pilgrimage invites us to notice what we are holding too tightly to, so we
might release ourselves into the current of life. The feather was a reminder of
the call to surrender whatever it is we grasp onto.
And Hildegard cherished the greening beauty of the world as a living mirror of
the capacity for our souls. The pine cone is a symbol of the new seeds
planted in every journey. We go on pilgrimage to be changed, to see the world
with eyes of wonder. We don’t know the fullness of the journey’s impact until
Take a moment right now to imagine holding a feather in one hand and a pine
cone in the other. What is your own call to release and greening?
Our theme this month at the Abbey has been “Call to Newness” – what
seeds are being planted for you to yield the lushness of blossom and
fruit? What stands in the way of your being able to receive the world as
There is more to say, but that will come with time. I have had many
inspirations including commissioning a series of dancing monk icons from an
artist friend (patron saints of the Abbey like Hildegard, Benedict, Brigid,
Thomas Merton, and more) and to add an 8th principle to the Monk Manifesto to
express the call to dance through Benedict’s invitation for monks to cultivate
good zeal, contentment, and a heart overflowing with love. I will also add an
8th lesson to the free Monk in the World e-course you receive with
subscribing. Look for that later this autumn. More to come on those . . .
I am heading off again in a few days back to my beloved Northwest to teach
the Awakening the Creative Spirit intensive for soul care practitioners wanting to integrate the arts into their ministry (next offering April 29-May 4, 2014 in Oklahoma) and then the Sacred Rhythms Writing Retreat bringing dance, yoga, writing, and monastic rhythms together (next offering September 2014 in Cape May, NJ).
May the turning of the world toward autumn (northern hemisphere) and spring (southern hemisphere) call you back to your own soul’s great turning toward life.
With great and growing love,
*Photo: ripe grapes hanging from the vine by the Abbey of St Hildegard