Abbey of the Arts sponsors a small grant program called the Earth Monastery Project. We began the program in 2014 and so far we have funded six wonderful projects which nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness in our world.
It is exciting to us to see the creativity at work in the world and how dancing monks are offering their gifts on behalf of the earth. Our second round of grants have just completed their cycle so for the next three weeks we are featuring each of their final reports to share with you and inspire you to creative action in your own communities.
The second project we feature is Young Adult Vocational Development, shepherded by Nancy Wiens. Here is an excerpt of her reflection (you can see the whole report below):
There are two key points of reference for vocational development, which we use at Kauai Sacred Day Walk. First is the lives of the young adults themselves and second is the rich literature on vocation in the Christian tradition. Years of teaching young adults and leading wilderness rites of passage guide us to notice the questions this generation of people, in this blend of island cultures, is carrying. In their lifetimes, in the simplest of terms, they have witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers and of the fragile global economy. They live with the normalizing of government takeovers and the hottest years on the planet in 14 out of the last 15 years.
Add that to the particulars of the complex, island cultures and class demographics. When we place these intense contexts alongside the wizened elders of Parker Palmer and Frederick Buechner, we attune to the midwifing of each young adult’s personal calling. “True vocation join self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as 'the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’ Buechner’s definition starts with the self and moves toward the needs of the world: it begins, wisely where vocation begins–not in what the world needs (which is everything ), but in the nature of the human self, in what bring the self joy, the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created.”
These two men’s wisdom about the interaction of the inner and outer worlds meets Howard Thurman’s sage luminosity, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” In the second half of 2014, the Abbey of the Arts’ mission of transformative living through contemplative and expressive arts and, more specifically, the Earth Monastery Project’s aim to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness and to cultivate a vision of the earth as our primary monastery provided a mature partner for us at Kauai Sacred Day Walk to take on these challenges of vocational development with young adults on the islands of Hawaii.
These retreats are central pieces in nurturing an earth-cherishing sensibility. Spending time in nature for contemplation or connection with God is almost unheard of in the youth and young adult population. Beyond the unfamiliarity, there is fear related to culturally embedded spiritual legends/stories and spiritual experiences that are interpreted fearfully. So, these retreats are very meaningful elements in moving toward the experiencing the earth as our monastery and a trusted place to encounter a Living, Loving God. Because nature is often easily experienced as a place to play for this population, the link between fun and experiences of God is a central bridge. Play supports the lessening of fear as well. The retreats explicitly bridge the God they recognize in scripture to the God they experience while praying/contemplating in nature.
 Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 16-7.