Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FOLLOWING JOHN TO EASTER


        February 18th is Ash Wednesday.  It marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. I know that because I remember it clearly from when I was a child at St. Alphonsus school.  It wasn't until I was well into middle adulthood when I realized there are many more days than 40 from Ash Wednesday to Easter--and that the only way to make it come out to be 40 is to not count the Sundays!

        It seems that long ago, religious people setting traditions and practices in the Church wanted this season before Easter to "fit in" to the larger Christian story.  There were 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  Jesus experienced 40 days of temptation in the desert.  So with some slight of hand mathematics, they devised 40 days of Lent.  They were doing the best they could! 

       Several years ago, for my own devotional time I decided to read and journal through the Gospel of John.  It was a depth experience in my favorite Gospel.  A few years later, a friend entered my journal into the computer so that I could begin editing it for a print devotional to share. This year, we have created a daily 5 minute video devotional, different each day, and I want to invite you to join me in exploring John's Gospel this year.

      Keeping with the tradition of a 40 day Lenten cycle... each week Monday through Saturday you will receive an email with a video link in your inbox.  You can listen to it, reflect on it, save it, share it or delete it!  Each one will have a Gospel reading, a very short reflection on the text, two minutes of silence for your own meditation and an intention for you to take with you into your day. 

      For those of you near Sarasota... if you are available to join us we will gather each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.on the campus of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church to discuss the prior weeks readings and work on documenting our 40-day adventure by making a hand-made book which will unify this discipline as an effort of spirit and art.  (No prior experience necessary). The groups meeting at 10:00 and 7:00 are the same, we just want to open them up to meet varying schedules.

      Whether you join in by simply reading through John's Gospel with us or are able to embody this devotion by participating on Tuesday's in Sarasota--my hope is that you'll experience the community of believers making this Lenten journey with you. And since a link to each of the daily devotions will be posted on the Peace River Spirituality Facebook page... I especially hope you will feel free to participate by sharing a sentence or two there for the rest us to benefit from your thoughts.

     To join us whether from near or far, all I need is your email address.  Send an email to: thecelticmonk@att.net  and simply put John's Gospel in the subject line.  That's all you have to do. Your emails will begin coming to you on Thursday, February 19th and continue through Holy Saturday.

    All of us who have been working on this devotional journey are excited by its potential to reach out beyond Peace River Spirituality Center and Pine Shores Presbyterian Church. If you have family or friends who you think might enjoy it, please pass along this email to them.  There is room in this ever widening circle of God's love for all.  

     Thanks for being a part of my continuing exploration of the contemplative Christian tradition.

With joy and in peace,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller  THE CELTIC MONK     

         

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Eyes to See"


Dear Readers and Friends,

      Over the next three weeks, I'll be producing a series of short devotionals that I thought you might enjoy.  Their origin is in the ministry of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, but I'm convinced they are universal.

       As you'll learn in the opening of the first meditation, each one will take between fifteen and twenty minutes.  Though their content is unique, the flow of each of them follows a pattern.  I open with a reading on the theme from an interesting author.  It's followed by the Guided Meditation and two minutes of silence.  At the end, there is a poem to fill you with hope.

      My hope of course is that you will find them meaningful at this time on your journey;  that you might find something that speaks to you in particular; and that you might come back to them again and again.

     So enjoy.  And when you've taken the time to sit with them, please do let me hear from you. 

     Here is how to access the first Guided Meditation in the series--simply click on this title:  "Eyes to See."  and then on the link that pops up.

      God bless you on the good road upon which you are travelling!

In joy and peace,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller, the celtic monk 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Packing Up, Little Deaths, Letting Go

5 of 55 packed boxes
 
          My husband Sam and I started planning for this move almost four years ago when we decided that where we live now (and have lived for the past 12 years) was not where we would retire.  At that time we had no more specific location other than somewhere in Florida, which we've both taken to like fish to water.

          So when I began doing some work 88 miles north of here, we wondered together if Sarasota might be an option for the move that has been in the back of our minds. In reality we tried not to make this decision quite yet. I spent the better part of July and August looking at options for renting for a year or so to 'try it out.'  But our immediate family includes two dogs which the rental community frowned upon again and again. If we liked a location, they wouldn't accept the dogs.  And if they accepted them, we didn't want to live there!

         The day finally came when we looked at one another and said, let's just look for someplace to make our move. Let's do our downsizing and get on with it.  And so we did. With the help of Rebecca St. Pierre, an awesome realtor and member of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, within three weeks we found a small home in a community that will welcome not only us but Bear and Dexter.

        The past few weeks, alongside filling out enough paperwork to reforest a small state, and going through drawer-by-drawer, shelf-by-shelf, and closet-by-closet of accumulation (separating into "Pack-Give Away-Throw Away")  I've continued to keep Spiritual Direction appointments, lead a weekly meditation group and a weekly book study group.  Surprisingly, what I've found in the juxtaposition of this work that I love and the necessary losses of a down-sizing move, is that they have a lot in common.

        In my sacred reading time this morning, this quote from Laurence Freeman's "Aspects of Love" brought into pinpoint clarity what I've been experiencing:  "As we learn to be poor in meditation... giving up our thoughts and saying our sacred word...we accept our mortality, we accept death and dying as part of our growth, and we learn to practise non- attachment, non-possessiveness, non-acquisitiveness in all our dealings with each other."

       It only now occurs to me that perhaps even our planning for this move at this time in our lives, is the fruit of the 'letting go' that is so much a part of the contemplative practice of meditation.  That our counter-cultural voluntary act of becoming smaller (as opposed to 'the one who dies with the most toys wins' philosophy) is indeed part of the spiritual work of coming to our True Self by laying aside the trappings--some tangible, some not--that have defined us in our early years.

       Most contemplative writers call this kind of event or awareness a "small death" meaning that it's a manifestation of the biblical concept of dying-to-self, in order that God might possess more of us.  And with each box packed for Goodwill... and with each box of paper sent to the recycle bin...and with each opportunity to say "no" to having 2 or 3 of something I only need 1 of... I am aware of a new lightness--or Lightness as the case may be.

       In sharing this, I don't want to be proscriptive. Not everyone needs, wants, or will go through this kind of experience.  And furthermore, the reality of what this move at this time illumined in my spirit, was a revelation in the process and not something I pursued.  God often works that way in my life (and maybe yours as well) we come to understand or see clearly only in hind-sight.

       So seven days from today we will close on our new home.  A few days later movers will come and take one-third less stuff than we had just a few weeks before. There will be things left behind that we won't miss and some that were harder to give up.  The whole experience is a reminder that we are ever only sojourners here. This place, this world, is not our true home.  And all the small leaving behind we do, all the small letting go we do now, makes room in our hearts and minds for what in God's goodness and mercy lies ahead.  Forsaking what was, we press on... we press on.

In Peace and in Joy, Kathleen Bronagh Weller, THECELTICMONK

       

       

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Sacrament of Creation

A SACRAMENT OF CREATION
 
i hurried to worship at the rising of the sun - a sacrament of creation
i bundled against the sea breezes; covering all exposed skin
especially from the salt water mosquitos
i positioned myself in the 2nd chair...not 1st chair like the violinist at the philharmonic
You see the 1st chair always arrives early, his prayer beads in hand.
But now together yet separately we await the holy drama
We wait...
 
We wait...
Ten minutes past curtain time,
his beads completed with the traditional crossing and kiss
the hooded 1st chair departs the coastal theatre.
i linger here only to realize that sometimes we must
simply believe that the sun has risen indeed.
What our eyes do not witness
is an exercise of faith.
 
 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

HURRY and NOTICING

Speaking with Laurence Freeman in Cork, Ireland
at the World Community of Christian Meditation Conference.
 
        There are two wisdom writings that come to my Inbox each morning and, even if I leave all the other emails for later, I accept their invitation to be read.  The first is Daily Wisdom and comes from The World Community of Christian Meditation most often a sentence or two by John Main, or
Laurence Freeman.   The second is from The Center for Action and Contemplation a short devotion from the writings of Richard Rohr. I find that along with my morning meditation, these are what I  am drawn to as I begin my day.

         But depending on the length of my to-do list and the pace of my day this small morning routine of mine is more or less profitable.  Do you know what I mean?  Some days (and some days might add up to a number of days in a row)  I go through my morning ritual, but it doesn't seem to go through me. Indeed I read with interest-and maybe even an "aha" but there is little evidence of that time in the going's-on of the day. 

        Yet on other days, and perhaps most days, where the routine is the same--meditate and read--the whole nature of my day is changed. My responses to situations and people are lighter, more gentle, more forgiving.  I'm consistently more open and less anxious. My morning practice would have looked the same to an observer, so what made the difference?

        Because I've just left a cycle of the former rather than the latter of the experiences outlined above let me share an insight...which at the moment also feels like a confession.  When I treat my spiritual disciplines as one more thing to check off my list, they resist!  When I use my spiritual practices as a habit rather than treasure them as a sacred appointment with The One who is leading the dance of my life, my steps are stilted and faltering.

        What I am learning again (as if for the first time) is that hurrying or duty bound obligation is no way to approach sacred time.  While perhaps these are virtues for making the world go round, they hamper our life in the spirit.  Rushing is the opposite of contemplation and kills any hope we have to hear--any hope to be changed.  And Love is not a duty but a privilege.

        I have another example of the pitfalls of a hurried life, this one from outside the spiritual realm--my desk and my table. Anyone can tell the state of my hurriedness (and my spirit) by looking at my desk at work, or the dining room table at home.  When I'm in good balance they are uncluttered--you'll not see piles of papers and books that look a little like a hurricane crossed over my desk nor will there be piles of junk mail that I've just not-gotten-around-to-throwing-away-yet on my dining room table!

       But when I've allowed the 'tyranny of the urgent' to dictate my priorities, I simply no longer notice the outward chaos growing around me.  Soon any observant person can see the very state of my being by looking at my desk or table!

       I wonder what it is that you don't notice when you are distracted or hurried?  What can people see around you--outward signs--that might give a clue as to what is happening inside of you?

       Even in the lazy days of summer, we can neglect to stop and smell the roses; both literal and figurative.  And when we allow situations and circumstances to gather us up in their tidal pull rather than ordering our life by being present to the moment we are in with all its possibility, we can easily miss the very thing God has put in front of us--or even the burdens Christ desires to lift from us. 

       Let me encourage you to slow down and notice the people and things around you today.  What are they asking of you?   What are they saying to you or about you?  How might you faithfully respond while keeping present, aware and not hurried? 

       Well, that's all for now...I have this compelling desire to clear off that dining room table.

In peace and joy,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller, thecelticmonk

            

          

        

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finding Peace in Ancient Practices



When I write my first book, "Finding Peace in Ancient Practices" will be its title.  Not only because I am a contemplative with leanings towards the spiritual practices of the early church, but because it seems to me that the time is ripe for 21st century individuals and the Church to be able to hear how our mirroring this fast and furious culture isn't working either for people or institutions. Keeping ourselves and others busy and/or connected 24/7 has done nothing for our happiness, our peace, or our souls and likely the opposite is true.  Maybe the subtitle of my book will be "why the Church doesn't need IM, billionaires and Facebook."

These ideas were sparked this week from sources as diverse as Ted Talks on NPR and Sr. Joan Chittister, author and social justice activist.  This weeks Ted Talks covered some disturbing brain science that showed how excessive money/power made people mean [an over statement, but really close]. And from Joan Chittister's exposition on the Rule of Benedict (Chapter 48) which calls us toward the gentle and willing gift of less self-focus and increased devotion during the season of Lent i.e. giving ourselves away  The logic may seem fuzzy at first, but to be succinct: the pursuit of a greedy kind of excess never leads to peace, even when achieved.  However correspondingly, giving of self creates both peace and happiness.

We've known this all along of course.  The Beatitude "Blessed are the poor in spirit" leads us to understand that compassion is a gift of willing poverty.  The researcher on the Ted Talk found that it was the poorest in our culture who are the most generous, compassionate and happy.  His further discovery was that even giving people an arbitrary or artificial advantage of money (playing a rigged game of Monopoly) made them act more cruelly towards those with less!  Can you spell: Lehman Brothers, Citicorp, BP, JPMorgan, ad nauseum.

We must slow down to a soulful state to see these things playing out not in others...but within us.  What is it that me makes me lack peace, happiness and compassionate action?  Where and how am I on so fast a track that I lose sight of the really important in the chaotic busyness?  Who have I left behind today, because my eye was on a distant prize? What word did I leave unspoken, what smile did I withhold, what pause did I fill rather than giving someone else the gift of attention?

The two ancient practices that have led me to this pondering are my own spiritual practices of meditation and spiritual direction.  It was the gift of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to spend time in prayerful silence, simply listening for God's voice.[meditation]  But it was also their gift to us, that when spiritual seekers would come, they would spend time listening for spiritual insight and being in prayer together. [spiritual direction]  While both of these gifts still exist in the Church in some form--I find they are getting more attention with the increase of noise, confusion and chaos across the globe in the last dozen years. It seems that the time to reclaim these Christian practices is upon us.

For if indeed the economists and social prognosticators are correct and a clear path ahead is not discernable...then the wisdom we find in silence, the compassion we find in prayer, the communion of two souls seeking God together may be the only viable way to peace. Peace for ourselves and peace to share with the rest of the world. Peace that no one can buy.  A peace that passes under-standing.

Have you found such peace lately?  It's as close as choosing some silent moments each day, or seeking a soul friend -- an anam cara, in Gaelic. Peace is so necessary to us as individuals and to our world. But we cannot share what we do not have.  It is in our rich tradition, that we can find the way ahead.

In Peace and Joy,    KATHLEEN BRONAGH WELLER, the celtic monk

P.S.  If you would like to receive 10 weekly emails on beginning a practice of meditation or if you'd like to try a trial session of Spiritual Direction via Skype, please contact:  thecelticmonk@att.net   Both resources are free!





 

Monday, March 17, 2014

ON BEING


This could easily be a photograph of a winding road in Northern Ireland.  The winding, the variety of greens, the stone fence, the economy of a road without any shoulder all serve to lead us to our conclusion.  And yet all might lead us to the wrong conclusion. It is "Monks Road" in Kentucky.

I wonder if we, in our lives, aren't sometimes like this photograph; wondering if sometimes when people see us, that they are misled.  Do others see us and assume one thing, when something else is true?  And what about us-ourselves?  Is there a way in us--or are there parts of us--that on close inspection, upon serious reflection are not true of us, or not true of us anymore yet we continue behaving the same, continue going through the motions?  Are we living our real lives?

I'm not offering a value judgment.  I'm not saying we are disingenuous. What I am saying is that when there is a picture in our mind sometimes its easiest even seemingly most natural to continue living that picture.  The thoughts go something like this:  "I've always been this way."  "It's all I know."  "I'm good at it."  Or even,  "It's how I earn my living."  "What else would I do?"  Do we live the picture even when the picture is of someone far from our best self?  Even when we have a hint that the picture is of someone entirely unlike who we were intended to be?

My hunch is that along the course of our life people of good intention ... people with our best interest in mind... teachers, mentors, parents, friends suggested what they saw in us--and we began to follow that picture...we became that photograph...and lived that life. We didn't do it to do harm or with bad motives for ourselves or others.  Maybe it was the best self with which we could come up--and through the course of time we developed skills and were rewarded.  And yet with the purest of motives, for many of us it was never our photograph, our true self that we were/are living.

And I wonder if there haven't been moments along the way when we saw the sail of the boat we never piloted, or heard the whistle of the train we never caught, or listened to the whisper in the wind and heard a familiar call...but we ignored it and continued to ignore it...because we were living this photograph now...until finally we didn't hear or see those glimpses anymore.

In my meditation classes you will often hear it said that we are only ever beginners.  And while its true of meditation, its true of our whole life as well.  It may seem like we are too deep into a way, or too far along a path, or even up to our necks in one particular photograph of our life.   But it is never too late to change...metanoia...to turn around.

It takes some degree of courage, honesty, and especially grace even to examine the old photograph that we've used as plumb. But God is generous in grace. And when we are ready Love shows up to help us learn to be a beginner. The gentle nurture of the Holy Spirit softens our defenses and we see as if for the first time, hear as if for the first time, and the world opens up before us as if for the first time.

This is the life of faith -- learning to be who we were created to be at any age or any stage.  In this reflective season of Lent may you experience the courage and grace to investigate whispers and photographs.

In peace and in joy,  Kathleen Bronagh Weller  the celtic monk