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I create these islands of silence in all kinds of places in my life. They are a respite. They are places where I can listen. They are havens where I can stop talking — to myself or others. They are places where I can see clearly, where I can feel safely.

I’ve done this all my life. I have been “Faithful to the Quiet, Finding the Silence that Soothes my Soul.”

One of these places is sitting quietly in Centering Prayer. I had the great blessing to be called to this contemplative “non-talking” practice of prayer. And greater yet, I had the honor of knowing and working with Father Basil Pennington OCSO who taught and wrote many volumes on Centering Prayer.

This is how you go about taking up this prayer and what it is, a simple, humble being to God.

“Silence is God’s first language. Everything else is poor translation.”
Thomas Keating

Silence may be God’s language but most of us have difficulty in fluently speaking silence. We live in a hyped-up, super fast and crazy noisy world and we tend to bounce around in the noise. Words often equal noise for us. Spoken words, silent words present as thoughts, and noises of the environment and living spaces in which we live all conspire to equate to noises that block the passageway of Spirit. Words more often block communication than facilitate it. Words get in the way of our ability to listen, when listening is what is truly called for.

There is a simple prayer. A prayer of only one word. A prayer which only uses that one word when other words and thoughts are trying to interfere with the prayer. This prayer is Centering Prayer, brought to Western Christianity from the ancient practices of the Fathers in the Desert contemplative practice. You may practice this prayer by yourself or you may find a group that meets in silent prayer time.

It is a simple prayer of attentive love, encouraged to be practiced twice a day for twenty minutes. It is a silent way of possessing inner peace so that we can bring it to others. It is a contemplative prayer of the heart – a prayer of “being to God.”

While this is a simple prayer, it is to many not an easy prayer practice to enter into. Sometimes first reactions are an extreme uneasiness to being quiet and doing nothing for twenty minutes, which seems like much more than that. Do not worry if your first attempts are much shorter than twenty minutes. Give over the amount of time you can do comfortably and return to it later. Your effort will add up. This is not really a technique to master, but a willingness to give yourself over and be in a mindful presence to the divine.

 

However, there are a few general guidelines to take into this practice, if you should decide to try this way of silent grace in your day.

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s Presence and action within.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce your sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s Presence and action within you.

3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Very often in a group setting of Centering Prayer, a facilitator will end the session with the group saying the Our Father aloud softly and slowly together to bring you back and ground you to time and place in the real world.

You can do this in your private practice as well. The Spirit, as God’s Presence, is working within you during the time you give yourself over to Centering Prayer, and this gives your psyche time to readjust to the external senses and to enable you to bring the atmosphere of silence into your daily life.

Centering Prayer is a very powerful prayer when you choose to make it a practice. It is not just during the twenty minute period of time of silence that it works. The graces of Centering Prayer become evident to you in the rest of your life as well. Contemplative prayer is the opening of the mind and heart – your whole being to God, the ultimate Mystery. It is divine union.

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I have read so many of his books, and also of his fellow monk/friend Abbot Father Basil M. Pennington, who furthered the cause of contemplation and Centering Prayer among Catholics. Two holy, manly clergy who were not afraid of the silence and not afraid to push past limits imposed on the spirituality of Catholics. I love them both and became a friend in life of Father Basil.

Both met sudden, unexpected deaths; Father Merton, electrocuted by a wire that touched water in his bathroom in Bangkok and Fr. Pennington in a car accident where another car raced through a red light at an intersection crashing into the car in which he was passenger and killed him instantly.

 

I am one lucky soul as my writing mentor/guide/soul-infused light Janet Conner is going to plan a writer’s retreat, at my suggestion, at the home of Thomas Merton,  Gethsemani outside Louisville Kentucky next summer. Because by her own admission, she is in love with him too.

 

 

 

Count me there!  Yes. Yes.

 

Peace in every step….Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Communing, reflecting, writing

 


Pretty sure to spend some time in here

 

I will bring the healing graces of Reiki
to “rain down upon us from the heavens above
granting all good things”

 

Below as guest blog is a short account of a wondrous soul taken from the monastery website. ”

“Thomas Merton, known in the monastery as Fr. Louis, was born on 31 January 1915 in Prades, southern France. The young Merton attended schools in France, England, and the United States.

 

At Columbia University in New York City, he came under the influence of some remarkable teachers of literature, including Mark Van Doren, Daniel C. Walsh, and Joseph Wood Krutch. Merton entered the Catholic Church in 1938 in the wake of a rather dramatic conversion experience. Shortly afterward, he completed his masters thesis, “On Nature and Art in William Blake.”

Following some teaching at Columbia University Extension and at St. Bonaventure’s College, Olean, New York, Merton entered the monastic community of the Abbey of Gethsemani at Trappist, Kentucky, on 10 December 1941. He was received by Abbot Frederic Dunne who encouraged the young Frater Louis to translate works from the Cistercian tradition and to write historical biographies to make the Order better known.
The abbot also urged the young monk to write his autobiography, which was published under the title The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) and became a best-seller and a classic.
During the next 20 years, Merton wrote prolifically on a vast range of topics, including the contemplative life, prayer, and religious biographies.

His writings would later take up controversial issues (e.g., social problems and Christian responsibility: race relations, violence, nuclear war, and economic injustice) and a developing ecumenical concern. He was one of the first Catholics to commend the great religions of the East to Roman Catholic Christians in the West.

Merton died by accidental electrocution in Bangkok, Thailand, while attending a meeting of religious leaders on 10 December 1968, just 27 years to the day after his entrance into the Abbey of Gethsemani.Many esteem Thomas Merton as a spiritual master, a brilliant writer, and a man who embodied the quest for God and for human solidarity. Since his death, many volumes by him have been published, including five volumes of his letters and seven of his personal journals. According to present count, more than 60 titles of Merton’s writings are in print in English, not including the numerous doctoral dissertations and books about the man, his life, and his writings.”

Brother Patrick Hart, OCSO

 

http://www.monks.org/

 

 

 

 

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susan-and-the-divinne-plan

Being a Capricorn, I am true to the planner side of this sign. All kinds of 5 year plans, many daily To Do Plans, many plans for the working out of my goals and dreams….many achieved.

Yes, I placed great value in planning and there’s also been some truth in some of my planning times, when God must have just had a good laugh, but plan…..I did.

Now, we are engaged in another seemingly “big plan”, one of which I was not aware was coming, but here it is and we are getting ready once more to leave house and home and make life anew back in the Kentucky Bluegrass of Lexington, joining one of our daughter’s  family move there.

It is not far off now, so rooms are being straightened, de-cluttered and packed.

The following reading is NOT clutter, but is being carefully packed to reside with me in our new apartment home in Kentucky. The name card, I picked up in a gift shop somewhere along the way. The reading comes from a long ago Unity magazine. These have been by my bedside since 1979.

They spell T R U T H  to me.

Tom's Valentine

SUSAN  — Lily of the Valley
Trust in the Lord
with all thine heart;
and lean not unto
thine own
understanding.
Proverbs 3:6

 

The Divine Plan

For each of us there is a divine plan for our lives and for our spiritual unfoldment; a plan established and lovingly overseen by our heavenly Father. This divine plan includes many lessons we have to learn to develop our spiritual understanding, many bountiful blessings to enrich and enhance our lives and, finally, an ultimate goal — conscious oneness with the Father. Though we may not perceive precisely how or why our individual plan is unfolding as it is, we can know that God is in charge of it and that it is proceeding exactly as it should.

With this in mind we can be less fearful of our future, less s=resistant to unexpected changes in our plans, less self-pitying about our problems and less overwhelmed by the task of attaining spiritual mastery. We can know that an ordered plan — not sheer chaos or the whims of a capricious God — rules our lives. We can also be assured that this plan is for our benefit, our highest good, our greatest happiness. It is not designed to test or to frighten or defeat us. God’s will is for us to mature and be perfected as His sons and daughters, but God knows that in order to accomplish this we must learn some lessons that may seem difficult or confusing to us.

Friends, we need to agree — not just submit — to the divine plan God has set into motion for our lives. God knows exactly what we must do to receive the greatest growth and blessings. Let us, then place our trust and expectation in God, and accept that what is happening through us (not to us!) is a part of God’s gracious and perfect divine plan for us.

 

Albany Road- Taluskie

I do.

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Golden Anniversary

I have a “Stuff” file that piles up at the end of every year as holiday festivities and fun take over the days into the new year. Then I usually procrastinate and stare the pile down before I work up the courage to sit down and take care of “the stuff.”  Usually medical EOBs and other stuff that bears looking into or catagorizing and making a place for.

Today was that day. I did it.

But in the midst of the work, came some playful fun. There were several cards in this pile given to us for the celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in June.

So as I sorted them out, I began to see an image form for a SoulCollage card, and I stopped the work and brought a beautiful and symbolic image together from the cards that I now add to my SoulCollage deck.

I love having this card, and Tom and I being the golden butterflies, fly freely among the roses and into the see breeze.

The lighthouse stands as a symbol of the guiding spiritual light we have always felt in our love and our lives. The seashore brings the water of graces flowing into our lives.

And while there is sand, our love is rooted on firm ground, strengthened by the rock of faith and the values of church, love and joy. The Holy Spirit brings these gifts to us and we are grateful.

The poem that back the card says:

Love is the power
that brings two souls
together.
It is a promise,
a dance, a song.
It opens doors
and explores
new worlds.
Love is a gift
to be celebrated,
and love is
a lifelong journey.
Love grows
in the marriage
of two
devoted hearts.

We have made that promise of love. We have opened new doors and explored new worlds. We are on a lifelong journey.

IMG_6384

daughters

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Crying for a Woman I Never Met – Honoring Seena Frost.
Posted on January 14, 2016 by Barbara Techel
GUEST BLOG

Seena FrostSeena Frost, Founder of SoulCollage®.com

Crying for a Woman I Never Met – Honoring Seena Frost.

by Barbara Techel

I never met Seena Frost— the remarkable woman who created the process called SoulCollage®. A creative, intuitive, and fun process I learned about in 2014 and trained to become a facilitator.

I was overcome with emotion when I read this on her daughter, Jennifer’s Facebook page today: “my mother and friend, merged peacefully into oneness with Spirit late last night at home with her family gathered around her.”

Why does this feel so emotional? I wondered. And as I thought about it there are many reasons. First, to think about losing my own mother someday I know will be one of the hardest things I will ever have to face. I can’t even imagine it. But I know this is reality and I pray she will have the same peaceful transition as Seena when her time comes.

Second, I have such immense admiration for Seena. She made such a difference in this world. She has helped thousands, many being women, to find their authentic voices and to be proud in letting their light shine.

In a world where so many are frightened to let the mask come off and be who they really wish to be in fear of judgment, to have had someone like Seena who thrived on encouraging others to tap into their own wisdom, was such a gift – a deeply, rich, wonderful gift.
I’m also getting ready to facilitate a SoulCollage® workshop in my home this Saturday in the lower level of my home which I’ve dubbed, “Joyful Pause Studio.” It’s not my first time sharing this process, but it is the first time in my new space.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt scared to take this leap – scared that no one will sign up for the workshops —worried about being disappointed. But I’m honored to have five ladies who will be taking part in the workshop this Saturday.

And so it will be an even more special honor in sharing this with this group of ladies, knowing that I, along with over 2,300 other facilitators, are carrying on the legacy of Seena – with our own authentic styles and voices added to the mix.

I discovered through the many thoughtful memories being shared on Facebook of Seena something she wrote in an article that I want to share also in her honor and memory:
“I truly believe that creating our SoulCollage® cards and sharing them in groups adds positive energy to this cosmic vibration, and will help humans move into the next paradigm. We may not be able to see it, but perhaps, if we look up at the night sky, we can be reminded and reassured of the vastness of Indra’s Net, and, as individual jewels, continue to create and share compassion and hope and humor and love.”

Seena, now part of that night sky, shining ever so brilliantly bright – I take into my heart that beautiful vibration of her spirit and hope that by sharing this process with others, I too, can make a difference in helping others feel safe in sharing their inner light.

Godspeed Seena. Godspeed.

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Advent Post

In Father Jim’s homily on Epiphany this morning, he offered to us that God is always being revealed to us through our experience. Always. In every experience. He said at the time of the birth of Jesus and the Epiphany of revelation at the visit of the three kings, that Mary didn’t know at that time what was being revealed.  What was she doing? She was “holding these things in her heart…..she was pondering these things in her heart“and continued to do so throughout her life.

How could she possibly understand what was happening now? How would she understand what was to come?  How?  She held them in her heart…a true contemplative.

I approach a lot of my life this way now, having just turned the age of 73. There is much going on above, around and through me. I journal, I hold these things in my heart. I feel gladness and joy; I experience pain and tears, uncertainty and fear. But I ponder and I am aware of gratitude for the gift of life and love all around me so freely given.

I love the words and art and spiritual vision of Jan Richardson and I share her poem of Epiphany with you for my first 2016 Napkinwriter blog.

 

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
undertake it,
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping,
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue,
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know:
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

“© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Within the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. —from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift this Advent and Christmas. Available in print and ebook.

 

 

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Advent Post

As the 2015 Advent season begins on this Sunday, I reflect on a few of its themes and how they play out in my life.

There is always………the waiting.

Waiting, with the action of one step at a time going on simultaneously. For I cannot afford to be paralyzed by inactivity nor lack of faith. I need to find myself in this very moment, and how  this moment blesses me, what this moment calls me to be.

This moment is like a prism, turning and shining in the light. Facets of the call, all present at once: I can be supportive, I can be kind, I can be taking care of self, I can hold belief, love and gratitude for this grace and gift of the moment. I don’t have to wait for any of those things.

I can wait to proclaim or judge by appearances. I can wait to label falsely. But, most of all, I am called to believe in the light…the light that the darkness could not put out. The light present before, through and after all creation. It still, shines brightly in our crazed world of gigantic needs.

This is the light that shines in me and in all others. This is the light that Advent calls us to see.

Father Alfred Delp, S.J was a German Jesuit priest condemned to death by the Nazis in Berlin, Germany. He wrote the following, as he was imprisoned:

Those who wait for you will not be disappointed.” Ps 25:3

“Despite this gloomy time, with a certitude about life and faith, we have set up the Advent wreath, even though no one knows how long it will stand or whether all four of its candles will be lit.

…”the course of the liturgical year and the message continues and we keep on doing things — but not for sake of custom or tradition. It comes from a sense of certitude about things and mankind and revelation — things that are fixed and valid in and of themselves.” (My italics)

These give mankind the right to light candles and to believe in the light and brightness of existence.

The basic message of this First Sunday of Advent is to attain to the Source. It enlightens our lives and dismisses what is questionable, so that we can believe in the brightness.

The human being we are must realize that he is a wayfarer, a scout, hungering and restless. He is dependent upon an angel approaching and touching him with the wing stroke reminder of a higher message.”

These words from Father Delp, written in the 1940s ring truth for me today in 2015.  I have felt the wing strokes of the angels swiftly touching me, particularly in the past couple of months during a time when I truly needed reminders of a higher message.

The wing strokes came from the graciousness of nature, in its splendid autumn colors, and the first cool breezes of winter approaching and a fresh first snowfall, which always brings joy to me. These messages have come from friends and family and prayer warriors helping bridge a time of diagnosis, surgeries and healing for my love partner husband in life. And not even being able to see the wings upon their backs, the higher messages have come through the skilled medical personnel, who performed their missions of healing and care throughout this time.

The light was present in the quietness of daily prayer, reflection, reading and meditation.

Carriers of the light…..we look to and upon each other.  And the darkness cannot put it out.

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