Sunday, July 28, 2013

Creativity and Visits from Mrs. Robin

I feel a surge of creative energy. Ideas are flowing:
* Topics for this blog,
* Possibilities for additional blogs,
* Plans for groups I would like to start here in Madison and/or in St Paul--a circle of women exploring their retirement years, a reflective writing group combining spirituality and writing practice, and spiritual direction groups, 
* Visions of writing projects, large and small,
*  Ways to do life review or journal writing workshops in senior living facilities.

I am almost hesitant to go for a walk or to meditate, for those quiet times often result in even more ideas, but then so does sitting on the front porch doing classwork for the online class on blogging I am taking or transcribing journal entries for one of my writing projects.

Where is this surge of creativity coming from? And why right now?

Perhaps the robin knows. Often when I am on the front porch and I glance away from my laptop screen or book page, I notice a robin perched on my car's side mirror.  I have started greeting this robin when I see it. "Good morning, Robin." "It's already afternoon, Robin." "I've had a busy day, Robin. What about you?" I enjoy its presence, and I wonder if the robin has a message for me.

Totems and Their Spiritual Messages

One of my most consulted books is Animal Speak, The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews. When I felt the frequent presence of a wolf in my dream life, I discovered that wolves are a symbol for "teacher," and I became more aware of how my essence is a teacher. When I realized how often I noticed hawks when I was walking or driving, I consulted the book yet again and learned that the hawk is a "messenger." The message has not always been clear, but I have been reminded to open to what was on the wing. At other times I have read the pages about herons, eagles,  turkeys, and bear. 

According to Native American spirituality, wolf and hawk and the others are my totems. Totems are sources of energy with which you may feel closely associated for a lifetime or for certain periods of your life. Totems can create awareness of yourself and your connection to Spirit.  

I wondered if Mrs. Robin is a new totem in my life.  Robin, says Andrews, is a symbol for the "spread of new growth." If a robin appears in your life, "expect new growth to occur in a variety of areas in your life." The book mentions the fact that robins can raise more than one brood a year, symbolizing the "activation of the creative life force." 

I feel a resurgence of the creative force in my life. 

I thought surely we would be moving from this house and downsizing into another by now. I thought my creative energies would be engaged fully into settling into a new home, but, alas, that has not happened. Instead, it seems I have an opening in the creative energy department. I have "found" time in which my creativity can thrive again. Perhaps I am coming out of the retirement cocoon I have experienced since moving to Madison five years ago.  

My husband says Mrs. Robin has a nest in the neighbor's magnolia tree. I accept that, but I also think she has an encouraging message for me. "I am here to remind you that you are not done and creativity is alive and well within you." "Thank you," I say.

An Invitation

I invite you to pay attention to animals that often occur physically in your life or when you meditate or dream. Consider the message they may have for you. And if your creativity needs a boost, look to the nearest robin! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Personal Cloister, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

With winter comes cave time; time to surround myself with darkness; an invitation to reflect and go deep. The light is out there and known, but not necessarily seen. In the cave I feel sheltered and protected, as I do the work of reflection. I welcome cave time, and only rarely do I wonder how many more days of cold and dark will there be. Cave time with its qualities of hiddenness and hibernation is a time of restoration and regeneration, along with a time to rest, if that is what is needed. Burrow in and allow the heart to find its own rhythm.
      I needed cave time, but somehow in these summer months, which most Wisconsinites yearn for all the rest of the year, that doesn't seem like the right image. I should be out in the sunshine, playing and bursting forth with relief we made it through another winter. What to do since I felt in my soul I need time to rest, restore, and release. And then I received a word. Don't you love when that happens? Cloister. 
     I am reading The Dancing Animal Woman, A Celebration of Life by Anne Hillman. Another example of the right book at the right time. I participated in a retreat she led over a year ago, and this book has been waiting for me on my shelf since then. Early in the book she finds herself in a quiet garden she describes as a "green cloister." What I needed was Cloister Time. I don't mean entering a monastery, hidden away from the world. Instead my personal cloister was slightly set apart from the world, where I could see the delicious greens and the ongoing growth as the days progressed from its first days of summer wonder to the expected days of summer's lushness and fullness. I could observe and enter in as I chose to and when I needed to. I could come and go as desired, knowing the cloister would remain in place. 
      In my cloister located on the front porch of our home, private unless I choose to greet passersby, I read and doze and write in my journal and pray and meditate and find my bearings. Another word from Anne Hillman. Hillman describes getting her bearings not in terms of getting back on top of things, not finding a direction or a destination, but experiencing the center. "Center was still. Empty. Yet filled with the present. Alive."
     One of my favorite books about spirituality is The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris in which she writes about her experiences as a resident in a Benedictine monastery. This morning I realized I, too, have a "cloister walk" right here at our home.
 This past weekend my husband extended a side garden, adding more stepping stones and bordering it with lavender plants, my favorite herb. While the path is short and in view of the neighbors, it still feels like a place set apart.  I walked this cloister walk several times this morning, pausing on each stone, offering a blessing. "This stone is for my father." This stone is for the loving gardener of this cloister walk." "This stone is for the as yet unknown buyer of this home who will inherit this cloister walk." I named family members and friends. I named myself. With each step on this cloister walk I felt more restored, more at ease and at rest, more centered.  As I returned to the porch, I prayed that I may be able to carry this cloistered center or is it centered cloister with me wherever I am. 

What does the word cloister mean to you? Where is your cloister and what does cloister time offer you? 


Monday, July 1, 2013

I'm a Bag Lady!, a post by Nancy L. Agneberg

I have a bag for every purpose: bags for grocery shopping and a heavy basket with leather handles for going to the farmers' market on Saturday morning; bags for each of my writing projects and an empty bag with "Paris" written on its side, perfect to toss a couple magazines, a book, maybe stationery for letter writing to have on a plane or the car or in a cafe. I have bags awaiting a specific purpose, big, small, fancy or simple. Some with memories of the gift-giver. Some pure luxury. 
     Years ago I participated on a variety of committees and boards and had a bag for each one. I would check my Franklin Planner (Remember that popular organizer?) each night and see what was on the schedule for the next day and set aside the appropriate bag. Social Ministry Committee. Church Council. Summit Hill House Tour. The system worked well for me.
     Now I live in two places--Madison and St Paul. Bags are definitely required. Our house is on the market and when a showing occurs I turn on all the lights and grab a bag and leave. I play my own version of the childhood memory game we used to play at Brownie meetings. "I'm going to my grandmother's house and in my bag (suitcase) I packed..." 
     Recently, my car was broken into and my purse, which I had UNWISELY left in the back seat while a friend and I enjoyed a river view and deep conversation, was stolen. One of those pure luxury bags. Money, credit cards, drivers license--all gone in 10 seconds the police officer said. Since then I have been dealing with the aftermath of this theft. Most everyone I have contacted has been helpful and empathic, except the one credit card person who asked me if I was having a nice day after I told her I was calling to report a stolen card (!!!).  
     The aftermath, however, involves much more than the financial loss and complications.  I have lost some confidence in my urban smarts and in my view of myself as someone who thinks ahead and considers carefully my current context. I am embarrassed and have even felt shame, especially when someone tells me what I should have done. I feel guilt for needing my husband's help during his busy day and also for marring the visit from an out of state friend. I feel more anger with myself, interestingly, than with the unknown person who did the deed. I feel flawed and inadequate. I messed up. What could I have been thinking? Well, clearly, I wasn't thinking.
     The first couple nights after the incident I replayed what I should have done over and over again. I told a friend I wasn't going to beat myself up about what had happened, but I was doing exactly that. So often when I have sat with someone in spiritual direction I have softly encouraged, "Be gentle with yourself." I forgot that wisdom when it came to myself, but I also knew I needed to explore the lessons of the stolen bag.  
     Here's what Debbie Ford in her book The Right Questions, Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life says in the chapter titled "Will I Use this Situation as a Catalyst to Grow and Evolve or Will I Use It to Beat Myself Up?"
     We beat ourselves up by rehashing an event over and over in our mind, analyzing why we didn't do it better and how we could have done it differently We beat ourselves up by spending our precious energy trying to figure out how we could have avoided the situation altogether...we always have a choice to use each event to learn and grow or to use it against ourselves...
     Everything in this life can be used to transform us, to bring us closer to our spiritual essence and our dreams. In other words, either we are using life in our favor or we are using it against ourselves. This is what is meant by the saying 'Life is a teacher to the wise man and an enemy to the fool.' By seeing life as a teacher, we transcend the pain and suffering we put on ourselves. And then we can spend our energy creating what we want rather than wasting it by rehashing the past.
     The Right Question will immediately shift our perspective from one of self-doubt or recrimination to one of open minded learning. 
     So what am I learning? I am learning how often I beat myself up. I chastise myself when I spill something or forget something or don't use my time as well as I think I should or eat more than I should or am not present to another person or...... On and on it goes. I beat myself up when I mess up, and I mess up often. Writer Joyce Rupp reminds me to greet myself mercifully." 
     I imagine if I had been more mindful in the moment I locked the car door without taking my purse with me, I would not have found a broken window when we returned to the car and therefore, I hope I will be more mindful, more present, but the lesson right now is to remember that I am human, and humans mess up. My lesson is to do what needs to be done and move on.
     I am going to my grandmother's house and in my bag I packed forgiveness, gentleness, humility, mercy, and mindfulness. What's in your bag?