I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Rev. Mary Anne Dorner’s reflection, Spiritual Strength Training.
For years, my primary way of exercising was walking outdoors in the beauty of nature. Then I read Christine Valters Paintner’s book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. After that, I began stopping along my path so that I could take photos of flowers and trees, ponds and woods, sunrises and sunsets. I noticed at times that our neighborhood “crow” would wait for me and accompany me on my walk. Other birds would often sing their songs as I passed by. Even the winds would talk to me of impending storms or whisper in my ear with warm tropical breezes. My walks became spiritual journeys that bring me closer to God while also providing my body with needed physical exercise.
Last summer I was challenged to bump up my routine by adding strength training to my daily and weekly exercises. Little did I realize how much I would benefit by adding a few simple exercises before and/or after walking. It took only a few weeks to see improvement. By now, my body is much stronger and I feel so much better!
Strength training has also become a metaphor for my spiritual life. For many years, the Daily Office/Prayer was my basic spiritual practice. At times, meditation and journaling were also part of my every day routine. For the past few years, I have added various sacred arts and crafts to my spiritual practices.
This fall I added something new to this list ~ prayer stitching. After decades of not picking up needle and thread except for mending purposes, I was inspired by a blog post by Sibyl Dana Reynolds to start stitching my prayers.
Now, in the quiet stillness of morning, I often find myself listening to the sound of my prayer stitching. As I place fair linen within a blessed wooden hoop, I set my intention. It could be praying for a friend who is battling cancer, or for a family member out of work, or a circle of sisters that I hold dear. A sharpened needle stands ready to receive the colored thread before it begins its journey to pierce the cloth time and time again.
As I hear the needle whooshing through the tiny openings in the fabric, this sacred sound blends with far away musical notes and lifts my heart to prayer. Ancient words of hymns and prayers readily come to mind: Ave Maria . . . Salve Regina . . . Glory Be.
As I sit and stich my prayers, I feel the sacredness of my task. I sense that I am one with circles of women across time and space who have created garments for their families and communities, who have made altar cloths and vestments for churches and chapels, and who have stitched quilts and table linens for home and hearth. There is a holy hush that envelops us all and brings us closer to our Beloved and to one another.
My stitching has become like spiritual strength training as I know that by adding this spiritual practice my prayer life is now more focused and stronger than ever. It has easily become a part of my being a sacred life artisan.
What new spiritual practice is strengthening your prayer life? Perhaps it is some form of exercise or hand work, photography, writing poetry and prayers, or just sitting by the fire and listening attentively to the wind howling in the night. By adding something new to your routine, your senses will be awakened and your spiritual life will be strengthened in ways that you cannot even begin to imagine. Oh that we may have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts that discover spiritual practices that will draw us ever closer to Our Beloved.
Love and Blessings, Mary Anne Dorner+
Rev. Mary Anne Dorner is an extroverted monastic theologian and church historian who loves to party. When not off traveling the world with her husband of over 50 years she enjoys hosting Camp Grandma and Grandpa for her eight grandchildren. She is a “retired” Episcopal Priest who volunteers, leads workshops and retreats, and participates in book clubs. The book Ink and Honey by Sibyl Dana Reynolds inspired her to embrace “The Way of Belle Coeur.” She is passionate about writing and you can read her work at everydayblessingsplus.wordpress.com. Check it out!