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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks’

Ash Wed Image - Christine Valters PaintnerPhotograph by Christine Valters Paintner, copyright

Today’s blessed blog for Ash Wednesday is by Christine Valters Paintner, with whom I will one day travel in Ireland on pilgrimage. She is my Abbess of the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks and she sings to my heart with her reflections, photography, expressions of the holiness of life and the paths of staying true to the inherent holiness within each and all.

IAO who is coming to IrelandI AM the One coming to Ireland, SoulCollage® by Susan Heffron Hajec

Having said that, here is Christine and her blog message of the day.

“Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

Today we enter the long desert of the Lenten season. If you participate in a liturgical service, most likely you will be marked with the sign of ashes and the words “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” will echo through the sanctuary space again and again.

St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes” and Amma Sarah, one of the desert mothers said, “I put my foot out to ascend the ladder, and I place death before my eyes before going up it.”

The word for desert in Greek is eremos and literally means “abandonment” and is the term from which we derive the word “hermit.”  The desert was a place of coming face to face with loneliness and death.  Nothing grows in the desert. Your very existence is, therefore, threatened. In the desert, you can only face up to yourself and to your temptations in life which distract you from a wide-hearted focus on the presence of the sacred in the world.

Death of any kind is rarely a welcome experience.  Even when we witness the mysteries of nature year after year reveal the glories of springtime which emerge from winter’s fallow landscape.  We resist death, we try to numb ourselves from life’s inevitable stripping away of our “secure” frameworks.  We spend so much energy and money on staying young. But when we turn to face death wide-eyed and fully present, when we feel the fullness of the grief it brings, we also slowly begin to discover the new life awaiting us.

In the desert tradition, death is a friend and companion along the journey.  St Francis of Assisi referred to death as “sister” in his famous poem Canticle of Creation.  Rather than a presence only at the end of our lives, death can become a companion along each step, heightening our awareness of life’s beauty and calling us toward living more fully. Living with Sister Death calls us to greater freedom and responsibility.

Alan Jones describes the desert relationship to death in this way:  “Facing death gives our loving force, clarity, and focus. . . even our despair is to be given up and seen as the ego-grasping device that it really is.  Despair about ourselves and our world is, perhaps, the ego’s last and, therefore, greatest attachment.”

I have been sitting with Jones’ words and the invitation to fast during Lent, one of the central practices we are called to take on. The first reading today from the prophet Joel summons us to “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”

But the kind of fast drawing me this season isn’t leaving behind of treats like chocolate or other pleasures. This season I am being invited to fast from things like “ego-grasping” and noticing when I so desperately want to be in control, and then yielding myself to a greater wisdom than my own.

I am called to fast from being strong and always trying to hold it all together, and instead embrace the profound grace that comes through my vulnerability and tenderness, to allow a great softening this season.

I am called to fast from anxiety and the endless torrent of thoughts which rise up in my mind to paralyze me with fear of the future, and enter into the radical trust in the abundance at the heart of things, rather than scarcity.

I am called to fast from speed and rushing through my life, causing me to miss the grace shimmering right here in this holy pause.

I am called to fast from multitasking and the destructive energy of inattentiveness to any one thing, so that I get many things done, but none of them well, and none of them nourishing to me. Instead my practice will become a beholding of each thing, each person, each moment.

I am called to fast from endless list-making and too many deadlines, and enter into the quiet and listen for what is ripening and unfolding, what is ready to be born.

I am called to fast from certainty and trust in the great mystery of things.

And then perhaps, I will arrive at Easter and realize those things from which I have fasted I no longer need to take back on again. I will experience a different kind of rising.

My word for 2014 is “essence” and the question in my heart these days is “what is most essential?” I think this is the question death asks of us as well. The desert summons us to her fierce edges to strip away everything that gets in the way of deeply nourishing our hearts. The more we acknowledge our own bodily mortality, the more we might be inspired to release all those agendas, plans, anxieties, and commitments which drain us of the life we are here to embrace.

I wish you a most blessed Lent dear monks, no matter how you choose to enter into this season. May your fasting help you gain clarity around what is no longer necessary. May your practice become a portal to what is most essential.

If you would like to join in an intentional and soulful journey, please consider our online Lenten retreat on The Soul’s Journey, where we draw on the archetype and metaphor of pilgrimage for reflecting on the journey our deepest heart’s longings are calling us toward. There is a delightful caravan of fellow monks and pilgrims already gathering and there is still room for your beautiful presence with us.

We also have a Community Lectio Divina practice this week on the theme of “Return to me with your whole heart.” Stop by to pray with the text and share what shimmers for you.

With great and growing love,

Christine”

Photo by Christine received in London’s Regent Park, copyright.

Christine Valters Paintner  —    abbeyofthearts.com  —

Abbey of the Arts, Transformative Living through the Contemplative and Expressive Arts

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Newness1

Today, I share a short blog. It is an image and reflection I posted on the Abbey of the Arts new photography invite through the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Photo Party. Christine Vaulters Paintner practices Lectio Divina, a speaking with the scriptures, in which I also participate. I am “commissioned” as one of her Monks in the World, as it fits my contemplative desires so perfectly.

She says,

“We began this month with a Community Lectio Divina practice (stop by to read the beautiful responses).  As I prayed with the Isaiah text, this phrase kept shimmering for me: 

‘See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.’

I  (still Christine speaking) love this image of God seeing the newness of things to come before we do, God’s imagination so much wider than we can see, and the possibilities just on the verge of being birthed that are hidden to us in this moment.

September can have the feel of a new year beginning, especially for those of us connected to school calendars. The ushering in of autumn, the return to classes, programs gearing up again after the slower pace of summer.”

Above are the words of Christine Vaulters Paintner

I, Sue, need to be aware of the possibilities just on the verge of being birthed that are hidden in me in this moment. This refers to my work in placing workshops in many places sharing my soul’s passion for SoulCollage, in which I am deeply trained. At the present time, there is only a rosebud hint of that coming to fruition for me.

But I deeply believe in the rosebud hint and see the rose bush of many workshops fully flowering the world within the next year….a day at a time.

So I look to my front yard rosebush as witness to my faith. I photograph the new life seen in the small and almost overshadowed new bud coming forth amidst the larger blossoms. This is the life that is light. The light that overcomes the darkness of both doubts and reality. The light that the darkness cannot put out.

That light is within me and my work in SoulCollage. I am grateful and step out into the new life that awaits me.

And with my photograph, I post on Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks:

“Call to Newness; today on my newly planted Everlasting Love Rose Bush, I receive the holy image of newness in the late bloom of a new rosebud; protected by the greeness of health as it streches forth seeking the supporting light of the sun, leaves surrounding it with hints of red and the life that is to come. I walk today with that hint of life within me, seeking always the light — the light that darkness could not put out.”

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