Gathering Space for Autumn Equinox
September 22, 2020
The Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona glows with a warm golden light that washes over trees, shrubs and ancient stones as we arrive. It is the evening of the Autumn Equinox, and the sun is completing its day after twelve hours, a day of delicate balance: light and dark, dawn and dusk, rising, setting. All in harmony.
The Harvest Moon, so appreciated by the farmers who will need her light for haying, will appear soon, shortly after sunset. She is still days away from her fullness, a young moon, a silver suggestion, a promise.
Her light will illumine our Autumn Equinox Ritual, from Heartbeat of the Seasons by Kathleen Glennon.
Carol, who will lead this evening’s ritual, invites us to form one large circle.
We each take a place, honouring the two metres/six feet distance between us.
Carol opens the ritual: “Let us come to stillness in our restless bodies, our spirits, as sing our chant:
Gently, gently into the silence
Gently, gently into the silence
“We gather this night to be in touch and in tune with this time of equinox,
this time when day and night are of equal length.
“This is a time of equilibrium and balance—of harmony and stillness."
Let us become aware of the moon, and attune ourselves to her energy.
Let us feel the softness of her touch on our skin.
Let us hear her music.
Let us become aware of her smile.
Let us feel her influence on our minds.
Let us becomes aware of her effect on our mood.
Let us feel her softness on our hearts.
Let us feel her lure on our body fluids.
Let us feel her pull on our tides.
Let us see her golden rays on the corn.
“Noreen will now read for us the words of Mircea Eliade.”
The rhythms of the moon weave together harmonies,
Symmetries, analogies and participations
Which make up an endless fabric,
A net of invisible threads
Which binds together at once human kind
Rain, vegetation, fertility, health, animals,
Death, regeneration, after life, and more.
Carol invites us to walk in silence around this garden for five minutes,
aware of the pale silver light of the moon, touching all that she sees.
When we return to our circle, Carol leads us in a litany of praise to the moon.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Holy this sacred night
Of harvest equinox.
Holy the pause that balances
Our earth, our souls.
Sacred this time of alignment and harmony.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Sacred our sister, the moon,
Holy her golden, gentle light.
Sacred her ever-changing patterns.
Holy her waxing, waning, weaving.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Sacred her mysterious connection
With the cycles of life, with seasons.
Mysterious her pull on weather,
Powerful her pull on tides.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Mysterious her effect on our moods
Holy is she
Whose cycles run in our blood.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Sacred her wisdom,
Wondrous her power.
Awesome her light.
All things that flow,
Flow in rhythm with you, O, Sister Moon.
Response: Sister Moon, we thank you.
Carol passes copies of the Reflection around the circle,
inviting us to each read one line aloud, slowly, reverently, beginning with the woman on her right:
“And the Sacred One says:"
I am the inspiration of artists and poets.
I am the magnet of oceans,
The force that tugs the tides.
I am the regulator of the seasons,
The changing face of weather.
I am the lure of reproductive cycles,
The force that moves the flow of all that is.
I am the music of dreamers, of lovers.
I am glorious light to charm your souls,
Romantic light to fire your hearts,
Gentle light to soothe your minds.
I am the Dance of the Milky Way.
I am Moon, the daughter to the sun,
The granddaughter of the stars,
The sister of the planets,
I am who I am in moonlight.
We give thanks to you.
We give thanks to you.
Carol speaks: “There is a Cherokee Nation Prophecy from a past century that is about this time, our time on the planet. I invite Mary Ellen to read it to us and to introduce our Dance Movement.”
Cherokee Nation Prophecy:
“The bird of humanity has two great wings - a masculine wing and a feminine wing. The masculine wing has been fully extended for centuries, fully expressed while the feminine wing in all of us has been truncated, not yet fully expressed - half extended. ?So the masculine wing in all of us has become over muscular and over-developed and in fact violent and the bird of humanity has been flying in circles for hundreds and hundreds of years, held up only fully by the masculine wing that became over muscular and violent.
“In the 21st century, however, something remarkable will happen. The feminine wing in all of us will fully extend and find its way to express and the masculine wing will relax in all of us and the bird of humanity will soar.”
Mary Ellen introduces the dance movement:
”Our dance tonight will be one of creative movement to allow each of us to express in our bodies the joy of life, of moonlight, of freedom to dance as we feel drawn by the music.
In honour of Mother Moon I chose ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” for our dancing music.
“You may wish to experiment while you dance with the images described in the Cherokee Nation Prophecy.
Dance for a while with your right (masculine) arm fully extended and your left (feminine) arm just slightly raised.
When you feel in your body how that is, dance with both arms extended equally and fully. Notice any differences.”
(“Mamma Mia” is attached to the Communion email.)?
Following the dance, Carol invites us to form again our large circle. To bless one another, we extend our arms, each in turn, to offer to our companions a moon blessing of our own invention, something such as:
“I bless you with softness of touch” or “I bless you with golden rays of love”.
After each one has blessed the group, Carol reads the final blessing:
May the blessing of moonlight rest gently on our shoulders.
May her smile charm the patterns of our days.
May her golden rays romance the lives of all.
May her energy tug all into tidal, cyclic flow.
May her energy inspire earth’s poetry and song.
May her lure lead all into the sacred spiral of life.
Gathering Space for September 15, 2020
It is a pleasantly cool September evening under a dark sky on the island of Iona. The new moon will not appear until September 17th, the Feast of Hildegard of Bingen. We walk towards our circle of friends already seated on our Communion quilts, noticing with delight that the hardier flowers, a few deep red roses among them, are still blooming in the gardens around the ruined nunnery.
We find a place on one of the quilts, still conscious of the need for social distancing. Our greetings, our conversations, create a low murmur, like the sound of the North Atlantic on a windless night brushing Iona’s shores.
An invitation went forth through the noosphere inviting those who wish to bring a poem or a reflection on Hildegard of Bingen. Along with Julian of Norwich and Brigid of Kildare, Hildegard completes the Trintiy of Goddess Mothers for our Communion. Tonight we celebrate her feast day.
Violet stands to light the fire pot at the centrepoint where our three quilts touch. Moving to just beyond the quilts where she can see all of us, Violet speaks: “I’ve brought a poem written by Christine Valters Paintner that I’d like to read this evening.The title is “St. Hildegard Strolls Through the Garden”. I wish she would stroll through this garden. It would be such a joy to meet her:
Luminous morning, Hildegard gazes at
the array of blooms, holding in her heart
the young boy with a mysterious rash, the woman
reaching menopause, the newly minted widower,
and the black Abbey cat with digestive issues who wandered
in one night and stayed. New complaints arrive each day.
She gathers bunches of dandelions, their yellow
profusion a welcome sight in the monastery garden,
red clover, nettle, fennel, sprigs of parsley to boil later in wine.
She glances to make sure none of her sisters are
peering around pillars, slips off her worn leather shoes
to relish the freshness between her toes,
face upturned to the rising sun, she sings lucida materia,
matrix of light, words to the Virgin, makes a mental
note to return to the scriptorium to write that image down.
When the church bells ring for Lauds, she hesitates just a
moment, knowing her morning praise has already begun,
wanting to linger in this space where the dew still clings.
At the end of her life, she met with a terrible obstinacy,
from the hierarchy came a ban on receiving
bread and wine and her cherished singing.
She now clips a single rose, medicine for a broken heart,
which she will sip slowly in tea, along with her favorite spelt
biscuits, and offer some to the widower
grieving for his own lost beloved,
they smile together softly at this act of holy communion
and the music rising among blades of grass.
After the reading, Violet invites us into a moment of quiet to absorb the poem’s lovely images, words, thoughts…
Now Noreen Speaks:
During the late eighties I was involved in a training program in Mid-Life and part of the work was for each participant to prepare a presentation on some aspect of Jungian Psychology. Since I had recently read ILLUMINATIONS OF HILDEGARD with Commentary by Matthew Fox, I chose for my topic The Mandala. The mandala represented the “inner self,” “true self,” “wholeness,” or simply “the infinite divine center” within each one. Displaying the Mandela’s illuminations by Hildegard was the perfect way to include the participants in the presentation. The illuminations gave me a sense of the Divine Spark or the Living Light which Hildegard experienced in her life.
Her explanation on ‘Radiance’ has changed my perception of everything that comes before my eyes. She tells us that radiance is the way we participate in feeling the energy of the universe and the way the universe communicates its beauty to us. Radiance makes it possible for us to feel intimacy and communion with the other. The light therefore generated by another’s presence, whether it is a flower, rock, water or another person, is Radiance. At the heart of the Power of Radiance is our acceptance of the authentic beauty we receive by opening to the depth of another’s light. In EnlightenNext Magazine I recently read a beautiful summary of Radiance. I quote: “In my view, the power of Radiance is an expression of the mysterious way in which the universe cannot contain the magnificence it houses. Instead it is compelled to express itself in ten million different ways.” (p. 41)
After we take quiet time to receive Noreen words, Clara speaks:
I resonate with Hildegard’s referral to radiant light. I see it mostly in people’s eyes.
I have the privilege of offering seated massage to marginalized persons.
It’s really stunning to notice the difference in a person’s eyes before and after
the seated massage. I am conscious of the life-giving energy that manifests
this radiant light in myself and each one. I bless each person with the words
“May God’s radiant light shine in you and through you”. I like the way Hildegard’s
Poetry, so full of images of nature and intimacy, touches my soul and my experience.…..
the breeze, helping the homeless, marginalized person, the dew comforting the depressed, downtrodden,
the cool misty air refreshing the exhausted.
God hugs you. And you are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.
These images come alive and speak to what I experience.
There are times when I don’t see the radiant light in the other although I know it is there.
I pray through the seated massage that the tenderness, compassion and love of Christ
will flow through my hands and trust that is something is happening even if it is not easy to see.
How close I come to the suffering God among us and how awed I am that I can offer comfort
to an aching body that is filled with stress. It is so rewarding to actually see the hunger in a person’s soul
being filled even if it is only momentarily.
I experience being guided by Wisdom in my prayer for each one during this sacred
Encounter. I become aware of a deep communion occurring between Christ, Sophia, the person and myself.
Without a doubt the positive changes that I see make a difference at a personal level
and impact our world with a hope that care and kindness is a reality.
Again we want to pause in the stillness evoked by Clara’s words. After moments of quiet, someone looks up, draws our attention to the radiance now emanating from the stars. Each month before the new moon appears, the stars have their moment to shine most powerfully.
Yvette speaks: Hildegard says: I will tell you a secret about that divine light, about creative fire. The more you nourish it in your heart, the more it radiates out from you. The more you release it through your words, your deeds, of wisdom, of loving compassion, the brighter the flame burns. You will be a great burning, my beloved people, and in that fiery dance, you will find that you are, as I myself discovered, no longer aware of your years, but rather that you feel once more as young as a spring maiden. Shine on!
I hear her and say: Yes, shine on, Yvette!
Next Kate speaks to us:
Hildegard has had and continues to have impact on and in my life. She calls me to authenticity and courageous support of and for church reform especially in regard to justice for women in our church - for an acceptance of their gifts, their intelligence and their desire to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit in regard to ministry in our church. Hildegard's fearless outspoken call for the mutuality of masculine and feminine in our personal lives and in that of the institutional governance in our church is mirrored in my own convictions and desire for the same.
I am deeply touched by her description of a universe filled with the melody of God's Love. I find myself listening for that melody in the trees and the breezes, in the rain drops,even in the thunder and lightning of a fierce storm.
And sometimes I catch a dissonance, a cacophony of sound when I become more aware of the plight of persons dispersed by the horrors of war, the people starving in refugee camps, the homeless and persons who have lost purpose and meaning for their lives. I pray to bring all into harmonic wholeness and that the
collective fires of our Communion of Creative Fire will contribute to the "Unbearable Wholeness of Being" that Ilia Delio and Hildegard von Bingen have written about.
Silence rises within and around us after Kate’s words. After a time, a few of our companions rise, gesture to us to join in a circle dance still with two metres of space between us. Someone begins to sing. Those who recognise the song join in as the circle dance goes on:
We will never, ever lose our way to the well of her memory
And the power of her living flame it will rise, it will rise again.
Someone whispers, “I thought that song was about Brigid.”
Another voice whispers, “They are interrelated. All those fiery women.”
And a third voice adds, “So are we. With them. With one another.”
The dance goes on.
Gathering Space for Lughnasadh September 8, 2020
The early evening air is cool, mid-teens Celsius, mid-fifties Fahrenheit. The day’s elusive sunlight is already draining from the sky. The moon, one week past her full, has not yet risen, but she will soon appear. The days are shortening at an alarming rate. September. The autumn equinox is just two weeks away…
Yet there is buoyancy in our step, light in our eyes as we enter the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery.
Tonight we have come to celebrate the Harvest Festival. Each of us carries a symbol or an image or a few words that represent the Harvest Gift we offer from our lives to all that lives on the Planet, and to the Love that sustains and nurtures all of that life. We come to the Celebration with delight carrying gifts.
Our quilts of many colours are spread out on the grass awaiting us. At the centre of each quilt there is a basket of wild flowers: white daisies, yellow brown-eyed susans, blue cornflowers , foxglove with pink-purple bells, stalks of purple heather. We choose a place to sit, mindful of social distancing. We draw our sweaters, jackets, shawls more snugly around our shoulders, look hopefully towards the fire pot.
This evening it is Dolores Whelan who stands to light the fire, and to introduce the Ritual.
“Shall I tell you about Lugh?”
For answer, we settle ourselves comfortably, awaiting the tale with eagerness.
“The Celtic god Lugh is known as the samildanach, the many-gifted one. Lugh represents the skilled masculine energy, with its ability to hone, shape, bring to harvest the fruits of the seeds planted at Samhain and nurtured during the dark giamos time by the feminine energy. At Lughnasadh, as in many of the other festivals, the important dance of opposite energies and roles is beautifully expressed. Tailtiu, the foster mother of Lugh, is the goddess who cleared away the wilderness, making the plains and fields ready for crops to be grown. She died from her efforts and is also remembered at this time; Lugh is said to have inaugurated this festival in her honour.
“In the wheel of the Celtic Year, Lughnasadh stands directly opposite Imbolc, where Brigid, embodying the primal creative energy, occupied the central role. Bron Trogain, an older name for this festival, may mean the sorrow of Trogain or the sorrow of the fertile earth. This may mean that the fertility of the harvest is linked with the death that follows its completion, again bringing together the polarities of life and death. The successful harvest requires that Lugh appease his adversary, Crom Dubh, who represents the aspect of the land that does not wish to be harvested or subjected to the rule and energy of Lugh.
“The two-week Lughnasadh festival was a very important meeting time for the tribe, bringing people together to test their skills in many different disciplines. They challenged each other in a variety of contests and games held during the annual fairs in Lugh’s honour. The rituals at this festival included the acknowledgement of the triumph of Lugh, the harvesting and enjoyment of the first fruits, and the acknowledgement of the end of summer. It was a time of great merriment, especially for young people, who wore garlands of flowers and went into the hills to pick bilberries or blueberries. Marriages were traditionally held at this time of year.
“High places in the land, where earth and sky met, were considered the appropriate place to honour Lugh. At the ritual site, many of the characteristics and gifts of Lugh were enacted by mummers. The first sheaf of wheat, barley or corn was ceremonially cut, milled, and baked into cakes. These were eaten along with the wild blueberries or bilberries. The young folks’ garlands of flowers were buried to signify the end of summer.”
Dolores pauses as we take this in.
Corinne says, “It seems so sad. Burying the garlands. A sad ending to the beauty of summer.”
Dolores turns to her, and says gently, “In the wheel of the Celtic year there is no ending that is not also a new beginning. Remember that when the bright days of the masculine summer fade, diminish, we are getting ready to welcome Samhain, the season of the feminine winter. The days of womb-like preparation, the dark days of incubation that will themselves end with Brigid’s Festival of Imbolc on February 1st welcoming spring.”
Now Dolores explains tonight's ritual: "There are two parts to our Lughnasadh Ritual: the farewell to summer and the placing of the harvest gifts on the altar. For the first, I invite you to pass around the basket you find in the centre of each quilt. Choose five or six long-stemmed flowers, and braid the stems so that they form a crown, with the blossoms on the outside. Place the crown snugly on your head.
"Weave your crown with gratitude for the joys of summer, with a thankful heart knowing that what follows is the beauty of autumn, and then the sacred snow-wrapped season of Samhain. Once your crown is ready to wear, you may want to move to a space on the grass to dance to a song of gratitude by ABBA. It's called, 'Thanks for the music' and tonight we might change the words to 'Thanks for the summer'. "
(music on the email link)
"Now look towards the far edge of the grass to the table that you see there. If two or three of you whose crowns are in place would come with me, we’ll decorate the altar to prepare for the second part of the ritual."
Ritual of Our Harvest Gifts
"Come now and stand in a half circle facing the altar. As you feel ready, step towards the altar and speak of your symbol. After each woman speaks of her symbol and moves to place it in the centre of the altar between the baskets, weSpeak together this response to her gift:
We honour you (name her). We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.
"After you hear the response, remove your crown and place it in one of the baskets to signify your readiness to say farewell to summer and to greet the season of autumn. The return to your place as the next woman steps forward."
Noreen is the first to step forward, holding a book in her hands. Noreen turns to speak to us:
"The gift I am called to bring to the Universe in this sacred, luminous, threshold time on our planet is my Book of Blessings, better known to me as MY JOURNAL. The JOURNAL represents my sacred pilgrimage where I glimpse God’s sacred image within me, the threads of inner glory, that are deeply and gently woven into the fabric of my being. It is within these threads of light, those moments of the Spirit, that I awaken to my personal weakness, my mistakes and my struggles, as well as awakening to the glory and wonder of who I really am. It is within the light and darkness of my inner life that I sense God’s flow of merciful love and healing. This gift of mercy makes me fully aware of the gift freely given by my Beloved which transforms the dry, parched places of my being into a luxurious garden as well as restores life to brittle, dry bones. It is within the words of journaling that I become aware of the mystery of God’s presence and nearness.
"As I reflect, write and contemplate I am extremely aware that my thoughts, words and actions have a salutary effect upon our world and brings its own kind of healing to all who are struggling, weary and confused at this time of pandemic. May The Healer of our many ills and Guide of our tomorrows, be near us as a Communion, bless our whole world, and pray for us."
Noreen places her journal on the altar.
Response: “We honour you Noreen. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Noreen removes her crown of flowers and places it in the basket, then return to her place.
Corinne comes forward, standing to face us, holding a rose. “This rose comes from the garden in Damanhur outside the house where I am living now. The gift I am called to bring in this sacred, luminous, threshold time on our Planet is deep respect for all living beings.“
Corinne places her rose on the altar.
“We honour you Corinne. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Corinne removes her crown of flowers and places it in the basket. As she returns to her place, Shirley comes forward.
Shirley turns to look at us, and speaks:
“The gift that I am called to bring to the Universe is the word ‘HOPE’. Reflecting back on these challenging past months I now realize that there were still many great grace-filled moments in this process and the need for HOPE. I share the word Hope with all of you for the transformation in humanity as we are part of the evolution process. The symbol I wish to share is the sacred light. May it be upon us and within us to empower us as we undergo what we have to.
Shirley places a card on the altar with the word, HOPE.
“We honour you Shirley. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Shirley places her crown of flowers in the basket and returns to her place as Mary Ellen comes forward.
Turning to face us, Mary Ellen speaks: "I was not sure what my gift to the Universe might be, but suddenly I thought of the shell I have had for many years. I have always treasured it, and have carried it with me through all my moves. It was given to me as a gift, and I no longer remember from whom. On the outside, the earthy brown, beige design moves in a spiral from a cone-like centre out to the opening where the little sea creature would emerge. Underneath, where my spirit is most drawn, the lines and whole structure spiral down and down deeper and deeper to that centre point. I know that is where I am drawn. And perhaps that is where we are all drawn - to the centre, the core, the Heart."
Mary Ellen places her gift on the altar, and we respond:
“We honour you Mary Ellen. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Mary Ellen removes her flowered crown and places it in the basket, returning afterwards to her place.
Clara comes forward and turns to us: “This hibiscus flower is a symbol of my gift to be open and attentive to the evolving life process.”
Clara places her flower on the altar and we respond:
“We honour you Clara. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Clara removes her crown of flowers and places it in the basket. As she returns to her place, Bernadette comes forward:
Bernadette turns to us and speaks:
"I’m preparing to go back to the classroom , so much of my time this past week and weekend has been trying to get ready, as best I can. My symbol is praying hands as I ask for prayers (and am constantly praying) as we welcome students back to schools this week, despite the system not being quite ready."
Bernadette places her picture of praying hands on the altar:
“We honour you Bernadette. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Bernadette removes her crown of flowers and places it in a basket.
As she returns to her place, Karen comes forward.
Karen turns to us to say: "The gift I bring is expressing the dance between opposites; the weaving which brings about a new and renewed creation. These drawings, based on the planetary seals of Rudolf Steiner, represent the planets Mars and Venus. The dance between them is expressed in crystals and in rock.
We respond: “We honour you Karen. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Karen places her crown of flowers in the basket and returns to her place as Colette comes forward.
Colette turns to us and speaks: “I offer the word beloved. Believing that I am beloved, taking that in a little more every day, living out of it is what I bring to the Universe (a forever work in progress). I feel that taking it to heart is welcoming Divine Love, welcoming a most precious Gift that so wants to be recognized. It is a radiance recognized within myself that I wish to help awaken in the people I walk with in Spiritual Direction. Perhaps can I also help awaken it in my every day encounters with people by osmosis or radiance and by recognition, seeing it in them as well. Could just living it out myself somehow touch the people I encounter in my life and like the butterfly effect have an influence on all of creation, on the Cosmos? These words from Understanding the Enneagram express my desire. ‘In Holy Love we know ourselves as arising from the brilliant light of Divine Love that creates and sustains the universe’.”
Colette places on the altar a card with the word beloved written on it.
We respond: “We honour you Colette. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Colette removes her crown of flowers and places it on the altar. Colette returns to her place and Suzanne comes forward.
Suzanne turns to us and speaks: “I was swimming in Lake Michigan near my home in Chicago when I found this rock.
It is a symbol of my love for the lake and the gift I offer of caring deeply for the water on our planet and its need
for protection. Suzanne places her heart-shaped rock on the altar.
“We honour you Suzanne. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Suzanne removes her crown of flowers and places it in the basket. As Suzanne returns to her place, Heather comes forward.
Heather turns to speak to us: This was a second harvest in my rose garden. When I made the arrangement and observed it, I thought this is what I will share. The different colours so closely united in the unfolding, the opening of many facets to the rose. Symbolic of humanity and a new harvesting taking place amidst the chaos. An inclusivity despite colour or race, a collective touching of each other’s lives as the significance of the opening of the petals suggests newness, aliveness, a promise of continued growth and solidarity. A beauty that only roses can model generation after generation. A promise returns season after season.
Heather places her bowl of roses on the altar, and we respond:
“We honour you Heather. We honour your art. What you give with love, in freedom and joy, we accept with love and gratitude. May the Holy One receive your gift.”
Heather removes her crown of flowers and places it in the basket, returning to her place.
Dolores speaks: “Thanks to each one of you for this beautiful ritual. Your words, and images of your gifts, the depth of your offerings to the planet at this time is a Harvest of Love and Dedication.
"Because it is too cool to celebrate here tonight, Elspeth has offered to take us to her home on the shore of the Atlantic for a Harvest feast.There will be music and song, stories and dancing as well as food and wine prepared by Elspeth and her friends, most of whom you know.
"Just follow Elspeth who is waiting here to guide us. And if three people will kindly each carry one of the baskets of flower crowns, we shall send them off over the Atlantic when we pass by the shore on our way.
"Elspeth will bring us back here after the celebration so you may reclaim your symbols for your own home altars."
And so under the bright moon we set off following Elspeth for an unexpected Lughnasadh Party.
Gathering Space: September 1, 2020
Mother Moon, on the eve of her fullness, greets us from the darkening sky as we enter the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery.
The air on the Island of Iona still holds the gentle warmth of summer on this first day of September.
Someone, or perhaps a few women from our group, have retrieved our colourful quilts from Elspeth’s home on Iona
where they have been safely stored during the two months of our absence. .
We each take care to choose a place on one of the quilts, mindful of the social distancing that keeps us safe.
Once we are settled we talk easily with those nearest us, sharing the news of how we spent the time
since we last gathered here on June 30th. A few among us are gazing at the moon, or glancing around the garden,
revelling in our return to this beloved place.
Shirley stands to light the fire pot.
As the conversations ebb, Shirley speaks to the group that forms a circle around the flame:
“We are now in the Season of Lughnasadh in the Celtic Calendar. This is a sacred time to harvest the insights
that came during these silent weeks of COVID isolation, as well as to ponder the way we now find ourselves,
soul and spirit, heart, mind, body in these unprecedented times.
"We may ask ourselves: What am I harvesting in my life as we enter the sixth month of COVID?
“Last week we each received an email inviting us to reflect on a few questions related to our life
since we last gathered here: its transmutations, its desires, and how the Communion might assist us with these.
Tonight I’ll read each of the questions and invite you to respond as you feel drawn.
“The first question is this: What is changing, transmuting, transforming in my life? Who am I becoming?
What do I most desire to grow towards?"
Yvette speaks: I am moving toward a more deeply lived spirituality encompassing daily life. Is it my age?
Is it the tenor of our times? Is it my return to leadership in my community? I believe it is all of the above
that moves me to be gentle with where I am in life now. I am not the leader I was at 45! I am a matured, yes ripened, leader.
I see life as opportunity and challenge. I understand the underpinnings of our aging and diminishing community in North America.
And, I recognize the effervescent growth of our community in Haiti.
I have been interviewing the Sisters for whom I am the contact leader here in New England. The experience is grace-filled.
The sisters older than I give me courage. Those younger than I give me energy.
Colette speaks: I am becoming freer to focus on the Beloved ever so gently. Grace is at work on this journey
of more freedom from fears and self-preoccupation.
I read words that describe really well what is going on with me:
“Surrender is being done to us by the action of the Beloved. And in the pull, the aspects of the ego
that no longer serve us (patterns, defense mechanisms etc.) are being transmuted, transformed, in preparation for union.”
Who am I becoming? The beloved. The invitation for me is to allow myself to be loved (a challenge for me)
and in so doing welcome the Beloved. I most desire to grow towards Union.
Noreen speaks: What I have noticed is that my prayer has taken a beautiful shift.
I am drawn to pay deep attention to my Sacred Breath. It is the Golden Flame of God’s Abundance and Eternal Peace
which flows into my Divine Heart space. It is a call to deeper solitude and prayer for the world.
On August 1st, I heard that my grandnephew in Sudbury, 27 years of age, was involved in a work accident
and had third degree burns to his chest, hands and arms. My heart grieved, and I was unprepared
for the pain I felt for him and his loved ones. The Breath Prayer became a doorway to enter into my painful wound
and be supportive to family. The breath prayer forms the background to all my other works and prayers.
What I desire and long for is not only to listen ‘to the still small voice within’ but with the ‘Divine indwelling’
to act and respond in such a way, that I fully trust my inner Knowing and Intuitive guide.
With such rich, inner knowledge I pray that I will feel the discomfort of my thoughts,
feelings, words and actions that do not move me to act with love.
Clara speaks: My ministry of offering light chair massage is uncertain at this time.
I am learning to live with uncertainty regarding ministry. The focus on “doing” has shifted to “being”
.I have to admit I enjoyed the slower pace that Covid has offered me. I am not bored but rather content at this stage.
I feel I should be more involved but where and how? I desire to grow towards attentiveness to’ what is’
and cherish the moment - trusting in the silence I am being led.
Heather speaks: During Covid I was led into stillness and lived it for the stillness was the blessing I was craving
but never would have achieved if the world hadn't paused. I am on a journey of healing, a cleansing of the past
and the healing of a broken heart by telling my story and truly acknowledging that I was shielded from a young age
by something greater than me. I am who I am today as a result of circumstances
that gave me compassion, love, acceptance and a greater understanding of human frailty.
Mary Ellen speaks: At both the macro level of the world, and the level of my own personal life, I must face more and more
that I am not in control. How I live each moment and unfolding event is what is most essential
to my sense of peace and wholeness. The deep need to be grounded in and held in the Immense Love at the heart of all,
and in the unfolding of all, is profoundly important to me. While as present as I can be to the more immediate realities
of my life and the world, I need to keep before me the larger, cosmic vision of movement and purpose
in and through that Love. I wish to respond passionately to the call to be a co-creator,
while being ready to abandon the efforts and results to the God of Love.
Contemplation leading to action and then to letting go in trust.
Shirley speaks: "Here is another question: How might the Communion assist/companion me in this growth?"
Carol speaks: As to how the Communion can assist, simply continuing to witness one another's journeys
through e-mail responses and especially opportunities for Zoom gatherings. In other words, continuing these practices.
Colette speaks: Perhaps in our sharing allow myself to love and be loved.
Mary Teske speaks: In one of my readings this past week there was reference to the culture/ spirituality
that was prevalent around the time of Jesus. Here we are two thousand years since that time and we seem to be
in a great time of change or being called to change spiritually, culturally and socially.
So this has left me with the question of where are going globally,
what is the communion's role and more particularly my role in birthing this new way of life?
Noreen speaks: How can we harness the energies of LOVE in our global world as a Communion?
We are in an evolutionary moment and God is creating us in this moment. We help God by our words and action
to bring God forth in our world. A new story is taking hold in our world and we must learn to live into this story.
We, the Communion, want to be part of this unfolding newness.
One name comes to mind that we might study. It is Thomas Merton.
The Communion supports and assists us by offering new insight for reflection and prayer –
moving us always to be faithful to the unfolding new story and being faithful to our part in bringing this about.
The Communion encourages our personal effort, so we do not grow weary with the challenging task before us
knowing we have each other as we are held in love and hope. The Communion offers each of us prayer on our pilgrimage together.
Shirley asks us the third question: "What aspects of spirituality for our times would I most appreciate focusing on
when we return to our weekly Reflections?"
Suzanne speaks: John O'Donohue has a poem “In Praise of Water” in his book To Bless the Space Between Us:
Let us bless the humility of water,
Always willing to take shape
Of whatever otherness holds it,
The buoyancy of water
Stronger than the deadening,
Downward drag of gravity,
The innocence of water,
Flowing forth, without thought
Of what awaits it,
The refreshment of water,
Dissolving the crystals of thirst.
Water: voice of grief,
Cry of love,
In the flowing tear.
Water: vehicle and idiom
Of all the inner voyaging
That keeps us alive.
Blessed be water,
Our first mother.
I would like us to consider our rebirth in water, reflecting on the bodies of water, the lakes or rivers or oceans
near where we were born, and the bodies of water that were near us when we had moments of transformation.
“Blessed be water where I was born/reborn.”
We might also reflect on the Celtic understanding that we are each related to particular aspects of the elements
of earth, fire, air and water. Which element best describes our way of living and relating? What is your element, what balances you?
Colette speaks: One area that is of interest to me might be expressed by the following:
In the motion of surrender allow the flow of Presence to live through us, in us, as us.
Hence becoming a greater manifestation of who we are, our authentic self / essence, a manifestation of the Presence.
Perhaps this is one aspect of union with the Beloved.
Carol speaks: I would really enjoy those who took part in the recent Ubiquity seminar sharing around
the Magdalene and the Dark Mother. Wondering too about tapping into them / these resources
to help us build and maintain our resilience. With the rigors of the US elections dead ahead,
the waters are going to be very rough.
Clara speaks: I would like to reflect on the ministry of ‘being’.
Living a more contemplative life.
Yvette speaks; I am understanding the dimensions of the title of a book I just purchased:
Coming of Age by Diarmuid O’Murchu. That being said, I am looking now for input and reflective material on “coming of age.”
Shirley asks the final question: "What I am harvesting in my life as we enter the 6th month of Covid 19?"
Clara speaks: What I am harvesting in my life in this time is Trust that “I shall not want.” Psalm 23
Heather speaks: What I am harvesting through these past months is a healing of the heart and a release
of the blockages that held me back so I can answer the calling to somehow be a calming presence,
making a difference and touching people’s lives for a purpose. Using my own experiences as a road map
that will direct me along the way, to be open to where life will bring me.
Hence, being part of the communion of creative fire, I believe is part of that calling.
Shirley speaks: "Thank you to each of you for your reflections and your willingness to open your hearts to us,
to speak of the growth and changes, the desires and longings you have experienced over this time.
"May each of us hold within us what we have heard this evening. We’ll close this time now with a Blessing from John O’Donohue.
"Let’s read it aloud together as an offering to one another:"
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
and that quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing.
May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the
question, “Who am I?” and may it brighten your longing.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and shelter your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness
with which your body belongs to the world.
May the sense of something absent enlarge your life.
May your soul be as free as the ever-new waves of the sea.
May you succumb to the danger of growth.
May you live in the neighbourhood of wonder.
May you belong to love with the wildness of Dance.
May you know that you are ever embraced
in the kind circle of God.
Gathering Space for June 30, 2020
On this last evening of June, the halfway point of the year 2020, the sun touches our faces,
warming them as its light radiates around us.
We come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery, our eyes opened to its rich greenness, what Hildegard would call
its viriditas or life force. We look with newly appreciative eyes at flowering bushes,
clusters of flowers in pink, yellow, white and violet.
Can we remember the icy emptiness of this place in January? Can we remember ourselves at that time,
unaware of the life-changing virus quietly making its way around the planet?
And yet now, in some vague way, impossible to fasten down in words, we know we are living through newness
more radical than the change from barren winter to full summer.
As the poet Yeats wrote, “All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.”
Tonight we have come to share together through poetry, and through other readings we have found,
something of the “terrible beauty”, something of the indescribable newness, something that we dare to call transformation.
We each find a place to sit on one of our three quilts, careful to maintain the two metre/six foot
social distancing still in effect. Our quilts are arranged in a triangular shape, each separated from the other two
by a large space. In the centre of the triangle our fire pot sits. Beside it, we see a woven basket,
filled to the brim with paper scrolls, each tied with a green ribbon.
As Karen rises to light the fire pot, our eager greetings soften to stillness.
“This basket holds poetry and prose writings inspired by or related in theme
to our planet-wide experience of these past months, “ Karen says. “I invite you to come forward as you feel ready,
one at a time, to choose a scroll, to stand by the fire as you read aloud what you have chosen,
what has chosen you. If you wish, you may add a comment after your reading.”
We look about wondering who will begin.
Carol comes to the basket and withdraws a scroll. She opens it, saying with delight:
“Mary Oliver! This is her poem, Pink Moon – The Pond ”
You think it will never happen again.
Then, one night in April,
the tribes wake trilling.
You walk down to the shore.
Your coming stills them,
but little by little the silence lifts
until song is everywhere
and your soul rises from your bones
and strides out over the water.
It is a crazy thing to do -
for no one can live like that,
floating around in the darkness
over the gauzy water.
Left on the shore your bones
keep shouting come back!
But your soul won't listen;
in the distance it is unfolding
like a pair of wings, it is sparking
like hot wires. So,
like a good friend,
you decide to follow.
You step off the shore
and plummet to your knees -
you slog forward to your thighs
and sink to your cheekbones -
and now you are caught
by the cold chains of the water -
you are vanishing while around you
the frogs continue to sing, driving
their music upward through your own throat,
not even noticing
you are something else.
And that's when it happens -
you see everything
through their eyes,
their joy, their necessity;
you wear their webbed fingers;
your throat swells.
And that’s when you know
you will live whether you will or not,
one way or another,
because everything is everything else,
one long muscle.
It’s no more mysterious than that.
So you relax, you don’t fight it anymore,
the darkness coming down
called the green leaf, called
a woman's body
as it turns into mud and leaves,
as it beats in its cage of water,
as it turns like a lonely spindle
in the moonlight, as it says
“Everything is everything else,” Carol comments. “Mary Oliver has been teaching us that through her poetry for decades.
"Now that her work has been completed, we are just beginning to understand.”
Carol returns to her place on the quilt and Joy comes forward to take a scroll.
“The Poet David Whyte writes about Ground:
is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where
we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or
the circumstances to which we belong whether we
wish to or not. It is what holds and supports us, but
also what we do not want to be true;
it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically,
irrespective of our hoped for needs.
It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us
what we are, where we are, what season we are in
and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract,
is about to happen in our body, in the
world or in the conversation between the two.
To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances
and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst
of those circumstances and above all to face the truth,
no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come
to ground is to begin the courageous conversation,
to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin
the movement through all the difficulties, to find the sup-
port and foundation that has been beneath our feet all
along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand
and a place from which to step.
“This could have been about the pandemic,” Joy says after her reading, "for we are learning
to step into difficulty and by taking that first step…to find the support and foundation
that has been beneath our feet all along… ”
As Joy returns to her place, Ruth rises, comes to the basket and takes the next scroll:
“This is a poem written by Michelle Massi for International Women's Day on March 8th of this year:
DIVINE FEMININE WISDOM AS EFFORTLESS ENERGY
Being in flow, Wu Wei Wisdom
River or a stream finding its way down
The mountain, being aligned with nature.
The life journey down the mountain,
We have every way we need......
Yin in action (XX)
Yang taking action (XY)
Wu Wei is the passage in between
the two energies, merging the two
together....the sacred space in confluence.
Hold the tension of opposites, in flow's perfection.
Be in harmony with all of creation.
Be inspired by the river, or be a tree in the wind,
Bend into authenticity.
Embody electricity, ignition's holy fire,
Unleash your blazing beacon.
Adversity invokes who you are,
Blessed holy wound, the good news.
Flow into everything with total acceptance,
In action, you can only control yourself,
Bow to your own incarnation.
Stay in Wu Wei, imbued with Chi..
Move out of Ego and listen to your gut, biome-a-dome.
Shape shifter, easy in/on/through and away.
Balance with and in all expression.
Breathe evenly and with exquisite Eros.
This is the empathetic embrace into compassion's heart,
Beloved Pilgrim, the responsibility is always available,
As yours, with the power of oscillation,
Every rewired moment, in timeless transcendence,
As synchronized Spirit.
Divine Design, feeling your Wu Wei.
Begin the new decade, be invested and radiate out,
Authenticity, that Electricity as ignition fueled,
Known and Unknown, BE invigorated.
Attach to the flood of light, pure GOLD.
Be perpetually curious in Wu Wei,
Evolutionary wisdom is always one breath away,
Peace in every moment,
You are not a verb......
You are a vibe
“I love the lines flow into everything with total acceptance and also the way the poet describes
the coming together of masculine and feminine energies: Yin in action and Yang taking action
and Wu Wei is the passage in between the two energies, merging the two together… the sacred space in confluence.”
After Ruth returns, Noreen rises to take her place by the basket, to choose the next scroll.
“This is a poem by the 20th century mystic Catherine de Vinck, called Walking in the Cosmos.
Not alien, yet too vast to imagine
this place we call home
This solitary jewel
sapphire on the throat of space.
Do we even have eyes for the patch of earth
in the backyard?
Do we feel the power of roots
pushing the single grass blade
to the light?
Not wrenched out of winter’s grasp:
quietly shooting forth
its slender green life.
Yet, sometimes an archaic memory
stirs us awake
We remember we are not alone
orphans lost in planetary storms.
We swim breast to breast
With other luminous bodies.
Within our blood
stars flash their signals
rivers circuit through our veins
the seas fluctuate rhythmically
in our brain
and the dust of dead constellations
mingles with our bones.
Turbulence, flux, chaos, a necessity
to translate the song of the oceans
to channel in to words the orbiting Sun
the tides of the moon.
We are the voices of plants
of animals, of stones;
we speak for invisible galaxies
as well as for the common violet
both sisterly near, both alive
wedded to our fleshy heart.
“’These are the words that speak to my heart: We are not alone, orphans lost in planetary storms….
We are the voices of plants of animals, of stones; we speak for invisible galaxies as well as for the common violet.
"I hope to remember this each morning and celebrate my oneness with all that is.”
Noreen returns to her place. Now it is Clara who comes forward to choose a scroll:
”This is an excerpt from the Russian novel, The Brothers Karamazov:
Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.
Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the
plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the
divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin
to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will
come at last to love the whole world with an abiding universal love.
“These words touch my heart because I know that when we love, our eyes are opened
to see the divine mystery in everyone, in everything.”
After Clara sits down, no one moves for a moment. Karen invites, “Is there anyone else who would like to read this evening?”
Suzanne comes to the basket and pauses before selecting a scroll, reading it silently.
“This is what I hoped for: a poem that celebrates the gift of water.
"It was written by a beloved woman whom those of us who attended the Mystery School knew well: Betty Rothenberger."
Praise to you, Most Holy Water,
Source of life itself
Most intimately and importantly who I am
Thanks to you, Most Precious Water.
You support all life on Earth
From your rains, from your streams and rivers,
from your deep wells flourish all that live and grow
Deep gratitude to you, Most Abundant Water,
Your oceans teem with untold magnitudes
Your expansive and swelling surfaces beckon us and lead us forth
Salutations to you, Beloved Water in all your forms,
Your moods and myriad manifestations thrill and humble me.
“Thank you Betty,” Suzanne says, and returns to her place on the quilt.
There is still one more scroll in the basket. Colette comes forward to open it, to read:
“This poem was written in the midst of the pandemic by Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand:"
Rest now, e Papat??nuku (Mother Earth)
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say
we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think
Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans
and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe
(Maori phrase meaning “tears from the eyes of Ranginui drip down on you”)
Ranginui is our sky father,
it is common to refer to rain as
the tears of Rangi for his beloved,
from whom he was separated
at the beginning of time
in order that there could be light in the world).
This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho - a small offering which is a treasure
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home
and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.
We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
- and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt
cinched tight at your waist
And we will do the same.”
Colette looks at us: “Who could add anything to that? May it be so!”
Karen speaks: “Thank you to everyone who risked opening a scroll, not knowing what you would receive.
"Hold these words in your hearts, especially the ones that make it sing,
until we gather here once more in our Sacred Garden in September.”
Gathering Space for June 23, 2020
The long evening, just past Summer Solstice, still lingers as we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. Soon Venus the evening star will become visible. The others will follow, shining silvery magic in the darkness of the night sky. The new moon is too young to show her light.
Wrapped in sweaters or shawls in the evening’s coolness we settle onto one of our three Communion quilts. We look around at our companions. Next to Jean Houston, a tall African American man is seated, engaged with Jean in what seems to be a serious conversation. The energy of their voices draws our attention, until all but the two of them are silent.
Noticing this, Jean looks up to say: “Let me introduce an old friend and student of mine, Dr. Larry Ward, one of the wisest, deepest, most experienced persons that I know. He is a senior Dharma teacher in Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village tradition. Dr. Ward brings 25 years of international experience in organizational change and local community renewal to his work as director of the Lotus Institute. He holds a PhD in Religious Studies with an emphasis on Buddhism and research on the neuroscience of meditation. I invited him to come with me this evening to meet with you, to share his thoughts on the recent happenings in the US and Canada related to what we now recognize as systemic racism.
Larry looks at us with a smile that is both wise and kind. “May I begin with a poem?
"Mr. George Floyd began his last breath with these words, ringing in the air: 'It’s my face, man.'
I tell you, somebody stole my face.
I can’t seem to stop this river of tears.
Black face on the ground, black face in the cages.
I tell you, somebody stole my face.
When I found it, it was dark like the night in its elegant beauty.
When I found it, it was in a dreadful theater called the White Man’s Burden.
When I found it, it was already condemned to live in a basket of lies.
But when I found my hidden face, the window of eternity swung open.
I tell you, somebody stole my face, my precious face.
I hold it in my hands catching tears of sorrow and joy.
I hold it with the kind hands of my ancestors.
I hold it turning into many faces,
appearing across time and space.
I hold it dancing with the cosmos itself.
I tell you, somebody stole my face.
But I have a secret for you, my friend.
Somebody stole your face, too.
I know you’ve been searching for it.
Find your face.
Find the ground of no coming and no going.
Lift yourself up so you can lift all the rest of us to higher ground.
And remember, when you touch your face,
George Floyd can no longer have that joy.
“I share this poem,” Larry Wade says to us. “And I bow to you, not simply out of politeness. I bow to you, as I learned when I was living and working in the villages of India. I bow to you in recognition of your mystery, depth and greatness.
"I bow to you in recognition of the awakening heart and mind that flows through your veins.
“It’s been quite a two weeks for me. I said to my dear wife, Peggy,
"‘I never knew I had so many tears. I feel like a cloud.’
“I’ve felt like this for a long time, but especially in the last two weeks. In my reflections I saw that it took a global pandemic to slow us down enough from the modern ‘grind’ of business and disassociation from our own lives and the lives of others to recognize the value of human life. So many people are passing away from the virus, so many of us—either by choice, by accident, or by luck—have had time to reflect. Most people in the world do not have that luxury, but those of us who do should not waste our energy.
“There are so many questions arising now.
“Is it possible for America to have a just society?
“Can we really overcome the utopian flaw at our foundation based on separation, cruelty, profitability, and ignorance?
“Can we create together a society that does not have sustainable, profitable injustice?
“Can we create a society that can live beyond our heritage of the colonial mind and its systems, which have permeated our very bodies?
“Can we together create a society guided by the truth of justice, by respect for humaneness, with wisdom from the spiritual depths of all traditions, and the imagination to create a very new harmony?
“We can, if enough of us work together to make it so. Yes, it’s about Black Lives Matter. Yes, it’s about needless brutality. Yes, it’s about systemic inequity. Yes, and it’s about much, much more. It’s about reckoning, restoring and revisioning the very fabric of our lives in this land and this planet.
“Over the last two weeks, I witnessed something I never thought I’d see, and I’m old. I always prayed for it. I saw non-black lives standing up for black lives. Here in America, and around this planet.
“I found myself moved to another kind of tears. Refreshment, gratitude, quiet joy, and deep inspiration woke up in me and was nourished. What did I see and what did I realize? I realized that the murderous death of George Floyd pierced the curtain of illusion that we are separate and that we are disconnected. The illusion that we are not all fully human. It pierced this veil that is our fundamental flaw and obstacle to having a meaningful and joyful future together. These responses I saw gave me a glimpse of something that’s emerging. As the poet W. B. Yeats wrote, 'Surely the Second Coming is at hand.'
“I was thinking about that poem, ‘The Second Coming’, and the rough beast heading toward Bethlehem. I was thinking that something is emerging. Many people have been commenting, ‘Yes, there have been many, many protests, but this is different.’ I have asked, ‘How is this different for me?’ The murder of George Floyd and all it represents awakened in many of us our own human empathy. It awakened our human capacity to feel, to recognize the innocent suffering of others, and to recognize it need not continue in our hearts and minds, and therefore it cannot continue in the social fabric of our lives.
“There’s a word for this, this glimpse I had, this embryo, this emergent reality. It can be called an anima mundi. I have a glimpse of a new world soul that’s never been created before, never been possible before, and never been needed before. By world soul, I mean a vibration, I don’t mean an organization. I mean a feeling of being connected. I mean a vibration of empathy, compassion, understanding and embodiment of our own humanity.
“It is emerging, both individually and collectively. The question is how we don’t lose this moment by getting distracted into colonial tricks of politics and non-tricks of politics that we have to watch and be on guard for. Please understand, we cannot fix this with the tools of what we’re trying to change. We have to create new tools, new spaces in ourselves, new healing, new courage, new bravery. First in ourselves, so that we can imagine what it would mean to live in a society and the world with gentleness and respect at its center. What would it mean to live in a world with caring at its center, with purpose at its center, with joy at its center? This means creating a social ethic we don’t yet have, though we’ve imagined it. Philosophers and religious leaders for years in their own ways have imagined it and talked about it.
“We have to ask ourselves, what should we do now, after the fire, after the funeral?
"What we must do now is create.
“At first I thought that the word for what we must do now is work. But then I decided I didn’t want to use commercial language to describe what the task is. Commercial enterprise is at the heart of our dilemma, at the heart of my comment about the utopian flaw of America:
"We are a business that tried to become a country!
“A social, ethical life for me—and I would invite you to meditate on this—is four things:
“First, when you recognize there is innocent suffering going on in society, stand up and call it out. However you are able to do that—in word, in deed, in music, in sound, in poetry, in dance, call it out. Hold the mirror up so we can see ourselves. Because unless we deal with our shadows, we cannot be whole persons and therefore cannot have a whole society.
“Next, take a look at the injustice you see and ask yourself, how are your lifestyle and your daily choices participating in feeding that system, sustaining that way of thinking, and encouraging that way of treating other human beings?
“Third, withdraw the legitimacy, withdraw your energy, whether that’s economic, political or cultural, from those systems and ways of thinking that will kill us all.
“And last, lead. Now your leadership may be small, which is wonderful. Your leadership may be tiny, maybe moment by moment, student by student, friend by friend, neighbour by neighbour, business associate by business associate, but lead. Stand up. And maybe leadership is not the right word and I’m ok with having a different word. Probably it is the wrong word, because what we’re talking about has to be cooperative and collaborative. It has to be a dramatic move away from the hierarchical, top-down, white supremacy model of leadership.
“I’ve been thinking that part of our dilemma here in the United States is that we have a constitution, but we don’t have a covenant. We do not have an agreement of caring for one another. We do not have an agreement to stand up for each other. I’ve been working on a little note for myself to practice with. It’s my covenant with you, wherever you may be and whoever you may be at this moment:
I stand up for you.
You stand up for me.
We stand up together.
And this is how we do it.
I care for you.
You care for me.
We care together.
This is how we do it.”
When Larry Ward stops speaking, a silence rises like a mist, a sacred container of quiet where we sit cocooned as we allow his words to find a home within our hearts.
After the silence, Jean asks, “Would anyone like to make a comment or ask Larry a question?"
Venus is shining in a sky of inky black when the last comment, the final question has been heard and a response given…
Now a different sound rises: the welcome sound of glasses, plates, bowls of fruit, trays of baking, bottles of wine being arranged on a long table just beyond our quilts.
We look towards the sounds to see Elspeth, our Storyteller from Iona and her friends the quilt makers. Elspeth speaks to us: “We wanted to bring you a celebration to mark the arrival of Summer Solstice. We got here just as Jean was introducing your guest. We stayed very still so we could hear his every word. Now we welcome Larry and all of you to a Solstice Feast.
“Let the merriment begin.”
And so it does. And so it is. And so may this new beginning be for all of us.