In fact at the Haden training this last weekend we were handed a picture of a tree and the title was “Contemplative Practices.” There are several branches: stillness, generative, creative, activist, relational, movement and ritual/cyclical. It would appear according to this diagram that almost any form of activity can fall into a contemplative category as long as one is wholly present to their actions. I’m sure that’s true but I still feel most of us will benefit from finding a way to silence and stillness. It’s a busy noisy world out there and “in here” and to take some time and just be, can be life changing. In fact, it has now been scientifically proven that the part of brain that deals with stress changes with meditation and we respond with less tension and anxiety.
Ron DelBrene’s book was for me like discovering a magic lamp, with a genie inside. The genie popped out and I was asked to make a wish, only one. Oh, what was so important to me that I would want to focus on it all the time? Ron suggests you find a short phrase that you use as an all-day prayer. He recommends it be around six words or so. You then repeat it throughout your entire day. You can say it at a red light, standing in line, waiting in a doctor’s office, walking to you employment, in the shower. Anywhere, anytime is the perfect time. You “rub the magic lamp” and you actually ask, “God, what prayer would best serve our relationship?” You take some of that quiet time I just mentioned and you listen. What phrase comes to mind? For now, that’s the prayer. Sure, you can change it. You can tweek it but for now, own the words that you have been gifted. Breathe in, deep breath and let them settle into your heart and your spirit. Give the prayer a few days to take root and then be prepared for when it begins to blossom. That’s when you’ll know the “genie” has heard your one wish and it is being manifested. The prayer isn’t for anyone or anything other than yourself. Selfish, you think? Remember the Prayer of Saint Francis? “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Until we change ourselves to be centered in the gifts of the Sprit; love, joy, peace, hope, compassion and generosity, nothing outside of us will ever change. Let God take up full time residence within, you only need ask, and then throw away that lamp because now the miracle of finding God within will bring about the miracle of revealing God without and I believe life will never again be the same.
|Susan & I beginning the journey|
Affirmation: Even though the walk along the Camino has ended, the journey continues.
|Roads Scholar Camino Tribe, May 2017|
I attempted to share a bit of our trip on the local Camino blog site in case someone else was interested in going with Roads Scholar but the conversation quickly turned to how much more it cost to go with a tour than it would cost to go on one’s own. I don’t think the people who commented had a clue; I don’t believe I would have ever gone “on my own.” I almost didn’t go with the group. Yes, it cost more than a solo hike but for me, it was worth the expense. I had many moments beforehand of wondering what the heck I had signed up for. We walked 60 miles in 10 days. We walked up mountains, through forests, through small villages and in the rain and through the mud. We didn’t get a certificate and we had a lot of guidance, thank God! But I left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and an amazing storehouse full of memories that will last me a life-time.
|The Rosaries in Finisterra|
Remember the blessed Rosaries I collected? I mentioned them in the last blog. My first night with the group, I explained that I had been given a “message” to bring Rosaries and I knew that sounded weird but I had collected about fifty of them from a lot of different people. “Please take one or two if you like. If you don’t want one, that’s fine too.” The rest of the Rosaries walked the Camino with me. When I was finished, I again passed the bag around with the same instructions. Between our group of twenty-three and the other people I met on my trip, I came home with 5 Rosaries. I was in awe of how many people I met who wanted to talk about their faith. If that happened, I eventually offered them a finger Rosary and everyone accepted; the tapas tour leader, the taxi driver, the hotel receptionist, the German pilgrim in Finisterra. I didn’t feel any pressure to give away the Rosaries. I just let it happen, and so it did, and it was so rewarding to share this small gift of my faith.
The journey didn’t end in Spain. The journey hasn’t ended yet. The first Camino synchronicity that took place was about a week later when I arrived at my daughter’s home in London. When I had visited her in March I walked to mass at the local church as is my practice. As I was leaving mass a very nice lady introduced herself and proceeded to walk along next to me. She was very gracious and said the next time I was in London, perhaps I’d like to come to her home for tea; she lived close by. I contacted her when I arrived at my daughter’s and made arrangements to meet up. I mentioned in my email that I had just come off the Camino. As we walked along, I asked her if she’d ever walked the Camino. “I have walked the Camino for three weeks every year for the last eighteen years.” I had goose-bumps. When we arrived at her home, she had all the original tour books for the path, before one had access to cell phones or computers. She had them in English, German and French. She also had a walking stick engraved with El Camino. My new friend worked for the non-profit, L’Arche. An organization that helped mentally disabled adults transition to independent living. It’s a world-wide organization. She then went on to tell me she had two American Gurus, Richard Rohr and Marshall Rosenberg. As you may already know, Richard Rohr is someone I follow very closely. He’s appeared in my writing quite a bit. I didn’t know about M. Rosenberg but I downloaded one of his books and read it on my eight hour flight home. He is the developer of the Non Violent Communication process. If that wasn’t enough of a synchronicity, when we went to a communication session to help our grandson, one of the five recommended books was….you probably guessed it, Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC.
It led me straight to an available slot in the fall session at the Hayden Institute for training as a spiritual director. Yes, even when I’ve finished walking the path, the Camino journey continues. This image that I now carry in my mind and heart leave me feeling excited, hopeful and awed. It’s such a marvelous gift and I feel so blessed to have received it. Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you!
Affirmation: I let go of affection, security and power.
Lee Smith, one of our beloved North Carolina writers spoke at the Olli program at NC State University this April. Her topic was, I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool. She spoke for one and half hours and never missed a beat. She was funny and clever and very entertaining. I took out my phone at one point, not to check my messages, I hope she knew that, but to write down one of her shared quotes, “Expectations are the breeding ground of resentment.” This, I felt, deserved some reflection.
I’m preparing for a walk along the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. I’m going with my friend, Susan Auman. We are going with Roads Scholar.
We are not walking the whole 500 plus miles. We are “only” walking about 50 miles or so, the last part of the famous pilgrimage. After my adventure last year with Isabelle to Alaska I realized how important it was to me to step outside of my comfort zone. This is way outside of my zone and it’s been an interesting journey before I’ve even packed the suitcase. (More about that later.)
I’ve read the information packet and I’ve watched the movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen. I’ve got my plane tickets, hiking boots and hiking poles. I’ve got new walking pants that roll up and my old Outward Bound hat. I have sunscreen and Biofreeze. I’ve spent the last few weeks dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s.” I have had moments of complete panic and moments of total calm. At one point, I called Roads and spoke to a woman named Gale. I told her how anxious I felt and that I wanted to speak to the guide; that was not going to happen, she told me. Then she asked me what I was anxious about. “Everything!” I replied. At some point in the conversation she reminded me that millions of people have already done this. They’ve walked the entire path. She also reminded me that this is a pilgrimage and “a spiritual journey.” With those words, the anxiety seeped out of me. It was like I had been in the dark and she came in and flipped on the light switch. I’d like to tell you that I’ve been calm ever since but that would not be true, although I have been calmer and that’s been nice.
After listening to Lee Smith, I’ve tried very hard not to have any expectations for my trip. I have prayed that it be “uneventful.” I think that’s what people mean when they speak of “traveling mercies.” If you’ve been watching the news lately, it appears travel is filled with situations that are far from pleasant and may even be life threatening, or deadly. Of course, that describes most of life, don’t you think? I however, once again, get to choose on what I want to focus. I have asked my Guardian Angel to go ahead and pave the path with grace and ease. That practice brings me peace. I expect this to be an adventure, perhaps one of my life’s most daring after breast cancer. This adventure however, I’ve chosen.
As I sat quietly one morning trying not to mentally pack (again) and to stay in the moment, I received a message, “Bring Rosaries.” I haven’t had a lot of direct communication with God or in this case, Mother Mary, but I was very sure this wasn’t my idea. When I rose from my sitting, I sent a note to all my Catholic friends asking for Rosary donations. I felt I wasn’t supposed to buy them. I believe I am to bring the prayers and energy of my dear ones from home onto and into the walk. What a wonderful response I’ve gotten. Some came with notes wishing us well. Some are from the Vatican, recently blessed by Pope Francis. Some are homemade by the ladies of St. Michael the Archangel. Others belonged to loved ones who have passed away. There are even finger Rosaries. Who knew there was such a thing? I’ve already given a few away. I know the dear ones I gifted will be holding us in their prayers as we walk along. I like knowing that. It makes me smile.
When I heard Lee Smith’s quote, however, it was not travel that first came into my mind. The reason I believe it resonated so loudly with me is because I recognized the frustration I’ve experienced over the years with several important relationships. I’m guilty of expecting people to behave in a certain way or to respond to me in a certain manner and they don’t always meet my expectations. I’ve got some amazing people in my life and I’m not proud of judging them as wanting because they didn’t live up to my expectations and perhaps because I didn’t even let them know what I wanted. I’ve been on the other side of this also and it’s a very exhausting experience to try and meet someone’s expectations whose needs are quite extensive but who doesn’t want to appear needy and so doesn’t tell you what they are.
The phrase I have adopted this year to begin my meditation with is, “I let go of affection, security and power and accept this moment exactly as it is.” I say it before I begin meditating and have to say it several times during my quiet time. “I let go.” How powerful is that? When I stop attaching my wants and desires on my loved ones, I give them permission to be whoever they are and I am then called upon to love them and accept them exactly as they are. Perhaps, once I can achieve that state, I can also allow myself to be the best I can be and not feel an obligation to create someone else’s happiness, or even comfort. As I examine this new phrase, I wonder how much of my life has revolved around my expectations and if that’s served me well or not? I think there’s a difference between expectation and hope. The first is about the destination and the later is about the journey. I can be guilty of focusing on the destination when It comes to every aspect of my life not just my relationships or my travel but my faith, my material possessions, my health, my social life. None of that has brought me happiness or contentment. It’s time to let go.
Maybe by letting go I will make more room for God in my life. Perhaps by letting go over and over again, just like I do in my mediation, I will finally be content and peaceful. I think my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella began the day I signed up for this journey and the lessons I am to learn and share started showing up almost immediately, including in Lee Smith’s talk. Although one of my affirmations is, “The best is yet to come.” Well, who is responsible for that? Perhaps that too can refer to the journey and not the destination. I’ll let you know as I walk along. Look for an update or two but don’t expect too much!
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
An Irish Blessing
|My Rosary Collection|