“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
―Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World
Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
This quote by Chicksaw poet and writer Linda Hogan is one that has guided my journey more deeply into the world of angels, saints, and ancestors for many years.
At its foundation, it is a journey of opening our hearts to the love of all those sacred beings who dwell in spiritual form across the veil. Our western minds may tell us that what we see is all there is, but the religious and mystical imagination knows a deeper truth.
Various religious traditions have taught about the existence of angels, saints, and ancestors for millennia. The God I believe in is a God of Love. A divine being from whom all of creation erupted out of this foundation of Love.
In a world so filled with struggles, discord, and violence, I know I can use as many reminders of the Love that undergirds and infuses all of life. Those beings who dwell in the light of the divine presence extend themselves toward us in loving care and compassion. They are resources to help sustain and inspire us. All we need to do is look with eyes of the heart. All we need to do is open ourselves to an encounter.
Thresholds are potent doorways between the old and the new. When we step onto a threshold in our lives we release an old identity or old patterns and we await the new birthing. It can be uncomfortable at times to rest in this space of waiting, of not knowing what things will look like. But an essential aspect of retreat time is that we cultivate our capacity to breathe deeply and stay present to what is unfolding within us.
To connect with the Otherworld—the world beyond the veil of appearances—means developing our intuitive skills and vision. It means trusting the messages from our heart and gut, rather than only what the mind shows us and our culture tells us is valuable. It means listening to daydreams and night dreams and paying attention to synchronicities – when a symbol or image starts to show up in multiple ways and places. It means spending time in the natural world and letting feather, fur, and fin reveal dimensions of our longing to us. It means listening for leaf erupting from branch and blossom emerging from stem without trying to figure things out. It means cultivating the capacity to let things be organic and emerge slowly.
For some it might mean suspending disbelief in the possibility of this kind of love and connection long enough for messages to be revealed. As Mark’s gospel tells us,
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:12-13, NRSV)
And this version from The Message by Eugene Peterson:
“At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.”
This is our starting place: going out into the wilderness of our lives, the threshold space where we release the old and anticipate the new, and in this liminal place we know that angels and other spiritual beings surround us and attend to us.
We are thrilled to be launching several beautiful new resources tomorrow! My book The Love of Thousands was recently published and is the culmination of many years of pilgrimage and spiritual practice. We have a brand new album of 21 songs to companion the book and help support your own journey of connecting across the veil to those waiting for you to attune your seeing.
Finally, we are releasing our fifth prayer cycle on this theme as well. Day 1 morning and evening prayer is available at the link above and we will be releasing all 7 days over the next several weeks during this season of remembrance when the veil is said to be thin between worlds.
Tomorrow, I am joined by some wonderful musician friends – Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Betsey Beckman, Simon de Voil, Soyinka Rahim, and Te Martin – for a free event to launch these new resources together in community. We hope you will join us!
In addition, Therese Taylor Stinson will be offering her Centering Prayer session this Wednesday. Join her for a time to pray and reflect together in community.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE