Saturday, February 6, 2016

An Opportunity to Consider Your Life: Past, Present, Future


        During my middler year in seminary, a classmate invited me to a workshop she'd decided to attend at Loyola University.  It was both a time and financial commitment for an unemployed student...but what I read about it was intriguing enough to go along.  Now, twenty-five years later, I have the opportunity to offer a similar invitation.  I'm going to "At a Journal Workshop"... do you want to come too?

       A couple of questions you might be asking yourself right now.  Do I really need a workshop to teach me how to journal?  I don't even want to journal!  Why would I spend the time?  What is it I can hope to gain?  Is it really worth it?  Is this really something I should consider doing?  These are just a few, you can add your own.

       But, my invitation--based on my own experience--is sincere.  Over the past twenty-five years I've gone back to what I learned about my own life at my first workshop, again and again.  I've used Dr. Progoff's system of asking deep questions to help me in discerning my life, events and opportunities.  I've taught some of his most helpful techniques in retreats and to others who have sought my input in their own decision-making. I've helped folks write Steppingstones--those touchstones of our life and experience that are formative; but may be invisible to us. And as it was for me, it's helped people to really listen to their life with sincerity and often to find something new that they'd not considered.

       Ira Progoff, PhD. was a student of Carl Jung and himself a successful therapist. This method of journaling he pioneered, is structured to help us get at those things in the inner core of our being and to gain fuller perspective about ourselves.  It also guides us towards taking action in our life that we may have not yet seen or considered.  

      What I have found is that beyond being a tool of self-motivation or actualization, these few steps are a path of creativity, of healing and is deeply spiritual work.  It invites us into ourselves... and into the place of Spirit within...where God whispers at a level for which we might not often take the time to listen, hear or understand.

       Though the workshop is done in a group, your work is solitary.  There is no sharing what you write or think.  But together, we do our own wondering and remembering and are invited to write it down and explore it gently with ourselves.  I still recall my time at Loyola University in Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan in 1991.  It became for me one of those markers in life, where from that place forward I would be changed.

        Peace River Spirituality Center @ Pine Shores Presbyterian Church is hosting a "At a Journal Workshop" event April 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th. You can register for Friday April 8th and Saturday April 9th, alone -- or for all four days.  A block of rooms is being reserved at the Holiday Inn in Sarasota and a shuttle will be provided to and from the hotel to Pine Shores.  If you require Continuing Education credits, 12 CEU Credits are available. You can read more about the workshop, Dr. Progoff and Dialogue House at:     www.intensivejournal.org

        So again my invitation.  Join me!  I am so excited to be a part of bringing the Journal Workshop to Sarasota. I look forward to the work we'll be doing together.  I'd love to answer any questions you may still have.  Email me: thecelticmonk@att.net   I also have a brochure that I can drop in snail mail to you or send as an attachment.

Blessings and Peace to you,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller 
thecelticmonk

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

PROPHETIC

As I came to the blog this morning, to check the date of an old story from last year I paused, a little amused, that since my post THE SOUND OF SHEER SILENCE in July--I haven't written.  And it occurred to me that that previous title was to be PROPHETIC... as there followed a six month silence. 

Many of you already know that just weeks after that post I suffered a three part fracture of my left humerus.  And that there is nothing humorous about it.  Being left-handed only doubly disabled me.

Until quite recently, I dare not even use a key board because as the song goes... "the wrist bones connected to the arm bone... the arm bones connected to the..."  You get the point.  The repetitive movement of key strokes caused intense shoulder pain. And so there has indeed been in many ways in my life, the sound of sheer silence. 

My learnings, which still continue are many, varied and deep.  I quickly realized that I could not live my 110 percent life with only 40 percent mobility.  While at first angry and frustrated... I soon realized what my body was teaching me.  A wise friend assured me or perhaps chastened me when he said "even high performance engines only perform at about 70 percent."  Hmmm... so my 110 percent life wasn't realistic?  or sustainable? 

I also learned that moving more slowly through the world meant there were things I just could not do.  Some I could parse out to others.  Some things just would not get done.  There was no sense fretting, the universe (or at least mine) had shifted.  Putting it in practical terms, there was only one double batch of Christmas cookies this year instead of six which was my norm. 

Beginning August 13th I was on a path I did not choose, but I quickly surmised that there were things here to learn.  Not the least of which being that sometimes it takes a 2 x 4 to get my attention--or at least a life altering event. 

There has been nothing graceful about how I got here.  But it has been grace-filled.   As I reflect back my stumbling into this new reality has at times been comical.  For instance... not being able to sleep very long, or very well, each morning I dutifully went to my email and starred those things I wanted to act on and deleted others.  After about three weeks, I realized my habit of starring and returning later to the email was begun because I didn't have the time in the morning to deal with them.  AND YET, it was such a habit that even when I did have the time (no place to go, nothing to do) my habit was not easily undone.

Don't take this the wrong way, but it seems to me that through this circumstance, God allowed a lot of time and space for me to sit in the Sound of Sheer Silence I so desire; Silence that has always beckoned to me and beckons to me still.  This time has been an awful, horrible, painful gift. Labor and delivery if I can use that metaphor...to accept and receive what I long for most.

There is an old fashioned Christian concept we don't talk about much anymore which defines this time in my life.  Most often its used of seasons of prayer...but isn't all of our life our prayer? It comes to us from Ignatius the Spanish mystic--who writes about "Consolation" and "Desolation." So while at first glance, my injury might look like desolation...I've lived in it long enough to know that it was actually a gift of consolation.  Not because of the fact of it-but because of where it led me. 

Life, especially life lived in the spirit is not as simple as consolations are always good and desolations are always bad. Ignatius knew that.  He knew that sometimes a life of consolation, comfort and ease can lead us to complacency and away from God; and that desolations far from being punishment are sometimes necessary and what we need to find our truth. 

I'm living the consolation of a tri-fractured humerus in much silence.  What are the current consolations or desolations in your life? What are they each teaching you?

I don't wish for this kind of consolation for you or for me.  But its good to have the language and the theology that allows  us to look at what we experience even as "desolation" and find something else there.  As you use these concepts to "sit with" your life, I hope there are new learnings for you.

In grateful joy and peace,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller -  THE CELTIC MONK
 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Sound of Sheer Silence


It's Sunday morning at 4-ish a.m. and I've been woken by a storm raging out over the Gulf of Mexico. Raging, but there is not a sound to be heard except the hum of the refrigerator just now.  And of course the breathing of our two dogs Bear and Dexter who have jumped up onto the bed.

What woke me is this spectacular light show flashing brightly without ceasing.  From a sound sleep it took me a few minutes to orient myself to what all the light was about.  As first it seemed as though an electrical transformer had shorted-out with its accompanying firework-like display. But there was this eerie silence... and no popping or whizzing that comes with such an event.  When the lights did not stop, I got up to sit in my chair that faces west, towards the Gulf.

And now, for the past 90 minutes or so I've sat in this fantastical silence as the storm ever so slowly moves the light show northward, up the coast towards Tampa. 

Sitting in this interrupted darkness I am imagining (because it is beyond me to understand) the sheer power, real power, in these flickers and bright flashes that seem to come from nowhere in the pre dawn sky.  How distant must their genesis be to come to me with absolutely no sound...only now a few frogs and crickets, as I've moved to sit outside on the lanai.

My thoughts turn to the familiar passage from I Kings 19:  "The Word of the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

But God was not in the wind, the earthquake, the fire...but in the sheer silence.  Indeed.  In your life and mine, without any sound and sometimes only glints and glimmers rather than flickers and flashes the God of the Universe makes Himself known and brings awesome power to bear in your life and mine for the single purpose of revealing His love to us.  To you.  To me.  Like the storm that is passing by in front of me just now, the Holy Spirit passes in and through our lives trying to attract our attention. Hoping we will stop and see.  Hoping we will come to know God's intent to light up heaven and earth for us...so great is God's love. 

I wonder how many times I've neglected to stand at the entrance to the cave looking out?  How many times have I instead hurried myself with things to do, places to go, people to see so that I missed God's attempt to get my attention?  When's the last time we answered the question for ourselves, or to God, "What am I doing here?"

I've been sitting here long enough now in the darkness, cell phone in hand typing this into my "Notes" with two thumbs (!) that the sky is beginning to turn navy blue.  The very tops of the thunderheads over the Gulf still flashing are starting to take on pink/orange hues from the sun rising at my back to the east.  The solitary sound of crickets now is joined by mockingbirds, whippoorwills, two morning doves, a cardinal and the first rumble of thunder.  Rain cannot be far behind.

As far as I remember, only once before have I been apprehended so literally, personally and powerfully by the Presence of the Love of God in nature.  I learned there, how to receive these moment or hours as pure gift. I couldn't be more grateful for having been woken to experience God passing by in sheer silence.

Blessed Sabbath to you, my friends,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller, Obl.SB   THE CELTIC MONK


Saturday, April 18, 2015

   

 
 
Above are photos taken last week while at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  Since I began making an annual silent retreat in 1992 I’ve taken hundreds of photos.  I always feel so blest by this opportunity.  I’m always surprised in what God reveals here on this prayerfully hallowed ground that has been prayed on 7-times-a-day by the Trappist monks since 1848.  My time is often marked by nameless healings and a profound sense of well-being.  Perhaps taking pictures is a way to capture all of that or even an attempt to take it home with me.

Intellectually we all know that it isn’t possible. We can’t capture grace or healing or blessing. They’re more elusive and more powerful than that. The Psalmist tells us: “God’s mercies are new every morning.”  We know we needn’t be afraid.  And yet…

It’s soulful work to trust God alone and to surrender our ideas, our plans, our will and our way, to His.  When in the course of a day, a week, a lifetime my ego continues to set the agenda making sure I take care of myself or that I watch out for #1–my plans swirl like a springtime tornado sucking up whatever is in its way, leaving not much more than a splintered path in its wake. Hay, straw and stubble Scripture calls it.  Then in enlightened moments (that may not last any longer than just a moment) we stand back and look at the debris field of our lives, wondering just how everything got so littered and twisted or in some cases, how so much went so very wrong.

Of course the image of a twister is dramatic.  Perhaps in your life and mine there is instead just this dull angst.  It’s not that everything is wrong, but it’s also not true that everything is right.  We catch ourselves in unguarded moments taking in a deep telling sigh.  Is this all there is, we wonder. Is this life I'm living really my purpose?

Deep silence only attainable in big chunks of time allows us to stop, to breathe, to fall backwards in a trust-fall into the arms of God.  In deep silence we listen, rare, holy listening, without our agenda/phone/emails or instant messaging tangling Divine communication.  Now after these 23 years, of my trek to this place with its silence, the moment I see the monastery wall as I approach from the winding road to the north, I experience a release of any anxiety or any other malady my body may be unconsciously holding.  It’s the feeling of coming home.  

Do you have extended, intentional silent space in your life?  Where and how do you listen for and receive God’s mercies that are new to you every morning?  How do you experience deep healing in your life?  Or even how do you discern whether the path you’re on is guided by the One who created you—who knit you together in your mother’s womb?  Are you travelling your path—or is that too scary a question to ask?

The momentum of our culture will carry us to places we were never intended to go if we let it. That’s something to be mindful of for ourselves and with our children and grandchildren… We live in a time that too often rewards us for being someone we were never intended to be.  Before we know it our life can be expended filling a particular hole that indeed needed filling—but was never ours to fill. 

Let me encourage you to silence as you ponder these things.  And allow me to offer you an exercise of Lectio Divina, without words.   Use the photos I provided at the top, or Google search and download some beautiful images of your own.  Then take the silent path with them for twenty minutes one morning and again that same evening.  Let God alone speak as you look and listen without distraction.  Allow Holy Spirit to touch any tightness or rough edges within.  Then, rest for a while in Divine mercy, grace and love…allowing God do the healing work you need and that Christ made yours in the resurrection.


In the peace and joy of Eastertide,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller, thecelticmonk@att.net
P.S.  If this exercise is meaningful to you, I would be pleased to hear from you.  Thanks!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It is well...

My place in the cleft of the rock.
[Complete with pillow, journal, iPad and sweater]
 
I don't have a hymnal handy, but these are the words going through my head:  "When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows like sweet billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul."
 
Perhaps it's no wonder.  Because for yet another Lenten season I've spent time with John the Beloved  and his very special perception of Jesus. What's striking in Jesus' life is that neither 'peace' nor 'sorrow' could shake the well-ness of His soul.  And as I again watched Him walk on water to the boat of the terrified disciples...it seems He was working overtime to teach that sure and certain wellness to His disciples. 
 
The picture above was taken last August at Easternpoint Retreat Center in Gloucester. It was a new place on the property I found to sit and think, journal, meditate and pray.  What you can't see is that I'm only 10 or 15 feet from a high craggy edge that drops down to what was a turbulent Atlantic Ocean that week.  Sometimes the waves would crash so violently, they'd spray me with water.
 
It seems that the waters temperament, at the time, matched my own.  There were things crashing around inside of me...though I didn't realize it till five or six days into the silence. The water I stared at from my place on the rock was a mirror of my soul.  I was drawn to its wildness, and unpredictability because it was so familiar. I felt one with it.  Staring into the deep all those days was what I needed for healing to begin. There came a moment...in an instant... when I realized this place I'd been invited to come to was a metaphor and God was able to begin the healing I needed.
 
My own realization of what was happening between my internal dis-ease and the Atlantic became so clear that I remember telling my spiritual director that morning "I don't need to go back to the rocks anymore, something has changed."  But it was only in retrospect that I learned how God had used the crashing tide to get my attention, to help me face myself, to put me in a position to move beyond the unrelenting seas inside and out.

And it became true "it is well, it is well, with my soul."

I'm hoping and praying for you that there are those times and those places, that there are those rests for reflection in the busy-ness of your life.  Where is the place you go...the shore, a park, a favorite chair?  How and when do you take time to check in to see if it is well with your soul?  Would it surprise you to learn that God is trying to get your attention--to put you on a healing path--if you'd only stop to listen, to hear what is trying to speak all around you?

For me it was in the crashing, crushing surf that I heard God speak.  For you it may be in the song of a bird, or the pelting of rain, or the twinkling of stars overhead, or the opening of a flower. God can speak through all of His creation; and does.  So this is my final prayer as I prepare to push the button that will whisk this on its way to you.  That this week you will look to the vastness of the Good Creation to hear a message that will make it true for you that "it is well, it is well, with my soul."

Standing with you on your journey in peace and joy,
Kathleen Bronagh Weller,  thecelticmonk 





 
 
 
 
     

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