Thursday, February 27, 2014

February's Interview: Walking with Julie Mitchell

On the fourth Thursday of each month I introduce you to someone whom I look up to as a spiritual friend and teacher. The focus of my questions is on their spiritual practices and what nurtures their deepening spirit.

This month meet Julie Mitchell whom I consider one of the "stars" of my years in Ohio. Yes, she was one of my spiritual directees, but really I was one of hers, for her ongoing openness to learning about herself and the desire to live a life worthy of her best self and the person she is created to be was always inspiring. I think you will be inspired meeting her as well.

Julie Mitchell, MA, is a walker, talker, listener, life-long learner, master teacher, amateur musician, blogger, mentor, networker extraordinaire, avid reader, catalyst communicator, consultant, coach, and experimental cook who is always curious about what's next.

Her business, Coachwalks® serves individual clients and leading organizations in the US and beyond. She offers expert, customized communication and leadership skills development, plus direction for navigating work/life transitions or achieving goals.

Julie and her husband live happily with two cats in Durham, North Carolina. They seek adventures close to home and travel whenever possible, especially to destinations featuring sailing and beaches.

Julie, I know that walking is your main spiritual practice, and I wish we could be walking together as you talk about the role of this practice in your life. How did walking become your main spiritual practice?
Perhaps the practice started with routine, enjoyable childhood walks. I have happy memories as a 3-year-old in Ann Arbor walking around campus with my Dad or on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario--my first beach walks.

I remember wonderful walks and talks with my beloved Scandinavian Grandma to the big Lutheran church where I was baptized or to the "dime store" for treats. My grandmothers loved to walk, and all generations were expected to step out after holiday dinners or other family gatherings, even on Christmas Eve in the snow and ice after eating a huge turkey dinner and before heading to church.

As a five-year-old I was already well grounded in walking--from the safety rules admonishing me to "look both ways" to the joys of exploring new territory. My adult companions taught me about the path's opportunities, and obstacles. Everything from identifying poison ivy to appreciating a gorgeous sunset. 

Starting in 1964, I walked to kindergarten by myself in all kinds of Michigan weather. This seems odd now, as times have changed, but it was normal then. I continued walking to school until 1972, walking alone for the most part both because other kids didn't live on my street, but also because I was a quiet, introverted child and preferred my own pace and company. 

Such wonderful memories, Julie. I want you to know that my grandchildren, who are in kindergarten and fifth grade, walk to and from school everyday. I love the fact that we live in a neighborhood where walking is easy and encouraged. When did you begin to consider walking a spiritual practice? 
That did not happen for decades; however, by my late teens, I recognized an inner nudge and sometimes even an intense craving to walk, clear my head, relieve stress, release energy, or relish a beautiful day.

By the 1980's walking was widely recognized as good cardiovascular exercise, and I was motivated to walk off extra pounds, plus the heavy weight of sadness over an ill-advised marriage and subsequent divorce. I walked my way through grief over the loss of loved ones or when I felt like a failure. During that time I became more humble, willing to pray and ask for help, and open to receiving answers  I began to recognize how walking was healing my body, mind and spirit.

A multi-purpose spiritual practice! Tell me more about your walking journey. 
In my 40's the answers to "what's next?" career/life/spiritual paths questions came in both subtle and overwhelming ways while I was walking in places of incredible beauty. I am a life-long learner, and I squeezed every ounce of knowledge out of life and work experiences. I walked labyrinths on retreat with monks or nuns and race-walked at a holistic wellness spa in Mexico. I experienced solitary, reflective walks and deeply generative treks with wise elders from all over the US.

 I became more mindful and present, as I navigated challenging northeast Ohio trails over steep hills, creeks, and deep root systems. I was both "forced" and gently led to watch my step---to be keenly aware of my surroundings. After falling a couple times, I learned to pay more attention, not only while putting one foot in front of the another, but while interacting with my loved ones and clients!

In time I experienced the woods or lakeshore literally come alive, seeing everything more deeply, feeling entranced, moved and amazed by God's creation. I also began to trust that my walks would provide direction when I was feeling lost.

Are there any specific walks you remember and can share?
I remember a particular walk vividly. I was mourning my latest bad love affair, feeling lonely, unloved, misunderstood. I had been having recurring dreams of walking with a beloved companion, but I was in my 40's and feared I'd never find him. I drove to a favorite nature trail where I knew I could walk alone with my sad, restless and yearning heart. My tears began to fall, and I spotted a bench. On the bench was engraved "You'll never walk alone." My tears turned into a flood of recognition and gratitude. I felt Divine Love and companionship in that moment. 

Another life-changing walk occurred in 2002 when I realized I wanted to make a significant, scary shift in my "business plan." I was walking in the woods and asked out loud, "What should I do next with my business?" The answer came like a direct deposit from the heavens to my head: COACHWALKS. It felt absolutely right. I knew then what I needed to do--integrate consulting and communication skills practice with walking. I would literally walk with my clients. 

Very moving--literally and figuratively. Do you walk everyday?
No, and, in fact, there have been times, such as when I had my leg in a cast for months, when I have not been able to walk, but I always returned to walking. Restarting walks after the latest mishap or lapse represents "getting on my feet" again or a fresh start. 

For at least 15 years I've been very consistent with my walking, and in 2011 I walked at least one hour every single day. When I have to skip a walking day or two due to travel or other conflicts. I feel something is missing…and when I'm able to walk again, it renews me. When I walk with a client, helping him or her find clarity and direction, it's a joy and a privilege. I'm so grateful.

And I'm so grateful for you and your open and articulate way of sharing yourself and your spiritual practice. Any hints or advice you have for someone developing a spiritual practice?
Be open to exploring different paths and trust what feels right. Don't be limited by what you were taught or what you believe you "should" be doing. Be willing to stay with fear, discomfort, and anxiety as you practice…it's part of the journey.

Gurus, experts and spiritual guides may counsel you to pick "just one" practice, to be disciplined and single-minded and perhaps that may be right for you, and going deeply into a single practice can be beneficial, but I've found it's helpful to have more than one practice. At different times in my life my spiritual practices have included journal writing, reading, prayer and meditation, playing piano and organ, and being an active church member. It's okay to change your mind, return to a practice you thought you had left long ago, or follow your curiosity--or the "still" small voice--calling you toward a new direction. God has spoken to me in more than one way, and I don't believe in just one "true" religion or faith tradition.

Can you recommend any books about walking as a spiritual practice?
There are so many, but here's a "first steps" sampler.
The Spirited Walker by Carolyn Scott Kortge
Walking with Thomas Merton by Robert Waldron
Surprises Around the Bend by Richard A. Hasler
Walking a Sacred Path by Lauren Artress
Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss

I knew you would have much wisdom to share with my readers, and I am sure I am not the only one who feels inspired to put on my boots and head out on a wintry path.  Thank you so much, Julie. 

Julie's Contact Information
Julie's new Coachworks® website is under construction and will be available soon. Visit her Coach Notes blog to learn more about her services and see photos she has taken on her walks. Her email address is  and you can also read her at

An Invitation
I invite you to walk. Walk with intention and an open, expectant heart. What do you notice and feel? Could this be a spiritual practice for you? Julie and I would both like to know. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: A Gift from the Gospel of Matthew

Last week I mentioned The Hedgerow Initiative, which offers sustained, systematic programming in feminist theology, spiritual integration, and leadership for a just and holy world. Currently, the focus of study is the Gospel of Matthew, a wisdom book which according to our learned leader, Joan Mitchell, offers the world behind the text, the world of the text as a piece of literature, and a world beyond or ahead of the text, inviting our current questions in today's context. That's a great deal to ask of one book, but Matthew, whoever he was or they were, is up for the challenge.

Within the first few minutes of the first session, I knew Matthew has much to offer me. Mitchell asked each of us to write down the number one or two and then a second number. I wrote down 2 and 10. We were then asked to consult either Matthew 1 or 2 and the verse indicated by the choice of our second number and to read it as if it were written just for us. 

My verse, Matthew 2:10 was "When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy." "They" refers to the Wise Ones in the story of the birth of Jesus. The Star Seekers. 

Being Overwhelmed
I immediately thought about our recent full circle move to St Paul. I have moments, many moments, when I am totally overwhelmed with joy about where our star has stopped. 

I use the word "overwhelmed" frequently, but I usually mean I don't know which direction to turn next -- what to do next when there seems to be an unending list of tasks. (My friend Marian Methner reminded me recently that a "list is sometimes just a list.") Feeling overwhelmed for me has a panicky feeling attached to it, and my ego seems to be in charge. "Look, how busy I am!" I know the panacea for feeling overwhelmed in that way: Sit in silence, meditate, breathe, come back to center, and when I allow myself to do that, I generally become calmer, and life and what it asks of me seems more possible again. 

Overwhelmed with Joy
Matthew 2:10, however, leads me in a different direction. Being overwhelmed with joy. Joy. I am aware when I am happy and when I feel a sense of relief, as when our home in Madison finally sold or when Bruce arrives here safely on his weekly commute. I know I will feel huge relief when there is finally a For Sale sign in front of my Dad's house. I feel happy much of the time; for example, when I see our grands walk up the sidewalk to our house or wake up from a goodnight's rest or anticipate time with friends. My life is rich, and I have so much that adds up to an extremely happy life.

But what does it mean to be "overwhelmed with joy"? 

I admit when I first saw this house, I didn't think our star had stopped here. Bruce recognized it right away. I was underwhelmed by this house, seeing what it didn't seem to have. Still, I trusted Bruce's judgment, and I was tired of seeking. 

Also, I knew that our star had stopped over more than a house. Our star was shining on our plan, our goal, our dream to return home to be close to the majority of our family and longtime friends. I knew I would be happy and relieved, but I had no idea how "overwhelmed with joy" I would be. Each and every day.

To me being overwhelmed with joy means knowing and being in love, recognizing when my essential self is awake and aware and when I interact with a whole heart. I am overwhelmed with joy not because there aren't challenges or because I have overcome my personal failings or because I never feel distressed or weary or sad or upset. Rather, I am overwhelmed with joy because I am overwhelmed with joy. 

More Numbers
I am casually curious about numerology, and as we considered putting a bid on this house, I consulted Denise Linn's book, Sacred Space, Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home in which she uses your address to understand the vibration of your home. Our address is 2025, and the result of adding those numbers is 9. According to Linn, one aspect of the essence of nine is completion and endings, release, universal compassion, and wisdom.

        A home with a nine vibration is a home to reap and 
        harvest from past efforts. It is a home where your love
        and compassion for humanity expands…You can develop a
        breadth of wisdom that can even be prophetic. Because
        you know that you are part of a universal family, you
        have the ability to release the small things in life--you
        won't take offense easily. Old friendships are important 
        and you might hear from people from your past…You
        will find people drawn to you because of your compassion
        and wisdom. This is a good home to live in to tie up loose
        ends in your life. Live your truth because you will be an 
        example for others. 

This is a place where I can be and am overwhelmed with joy. 

An Invitation
When are you overwhelmed with joy? What does that mean to you?
Where has your star stopped recently? How can you invite more joy into your life? What would it mean to live with more joy? How does your home add or detract from living with joy? I would love to know. 

Note: Illustration is a watercolor by Doris Klein, C.S.A from her book Journey of the Soul.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February's Book: My Ideal Bookshelf. Art by Jane Mount. Edited by Thessaly La Force

What are the essential books on your bookshelf? Who are the authors who are your mentors, your guides? If you had to reduce your library to only a couple shelves, which books would unquestionably have a place? Which books do you return to,  reread and consult? 

These are not just practical questions, but are revelatory questions about who you are and who you were created to be. 

When I started writing this post I thought I was going to write about Thomas Moore's most recent book, A Religion of One's Own, A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, but after writing the opening paragraph, I realized I am not ready to write about this book. I need to sit with it more, to reread all I have underlined, to reflect on what has arisen for me as I have read this book. His books have always been the right book at the right time for me, and I know without a doubt that his books will figure prominently on my "Forever Bookshelves," but I need more relaxed, internal time with this new book before I share my reflections on it in this blog. 

Switching Gears
Oh great, I said to myself, what do I write about in what has become a third Thursday of the month regular feature, my book of the month? It's not that I haven't read other books (For example, I loved the new novel Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan about Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny. Horan wrote the acclaimed Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife Mamah Cheney), but this post is not meant to be a book review, but instead, is a way to offer spiritual reflections and to invite your thoughts as well. 

I reread my first paragraph and had my answer. My Ideal Bookshelf. Art by Jane Mount. Edited by Thessaly La Force., I don't quote from the cover flap, but I am making an exception this time, for it describes perfectly the scope of this book.
        The books that we choose to keep and display--let alone
        read--can say a lot about who we are and how we see 
        ourselves. In My Ideal Bookshelf, more than one hundred
        leading cultural figures including writers…musicians…,
        chefs and food writers…Hollywood figures…, and fashion 
        designers…share the the books that matter to them most--
        books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many
        cases helped them find their way in the world.

Now if that weren't intriguing enough, the book itself is lovely. Each short first person essay is accompanied by an illustration of the book spines of the individual's personal selections. 

One Book Leads to Another
This book sits in one of the cubbies in my Lady's Writing Desk in the living room, and I dip into it occasionally. I am reading the essays both in the order in which they are presented, beginning with Hugh Acheson, a chef and cookbook author, but also open it at random and see where I land. Just now it is the writer Mary Karr and I love her shelf, which includes one of my favorite books, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. Seeing the spine of that book reminds me of the class I took many years ago in which that book was discussed and then many years after that driving quite a distance to hear Kingston speak. Seeing this title this morning makes me think about the way I have at times been a "woman warrior;" times in which I have gone to battle for a cause or a person; times in which I have stood up for myself and surprised myself doing that. This is a contender for my "ideal bookshelf," and deserves to be reread. 

Each quick hit with this book seems to lead to a memory, a connection, a writing idea, or at the very least a new book for my ever-growing "Books to Read" list. And, of course, the very nature of this book makes me think about what books I would want on my ideal bookshelf. Just how long is this fantasy bookshelf anyway?

Fantasy Shelves
My fiction shelf is already quite full and includes my favorite childhood book, Dandelion Cottage, which I think inspired my own love of home tending. Each of the other books--Pride and Prejudice, Giants in the Earth by Rolvaag, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, The Woman's Room by French, a selection of Nancy Drew books, Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, Hedda Gabler by Ibsen, A Separate Peace by Knowles, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, and Goodbye Columbus by Roth--conjures memories of time and place, as well as a stage in my personal development. 

I have not yet committed to an imaginary nonfiction shelf, although I know Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul will be there. I can think of others, such as Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Composing a Life by Catherine Bateson and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but the nonfiction shelf feels more in flux to me. I know I will continue to read excellent fiction that will move or delight me, but when I think about choosing fiction for my ideal bookshelf, I feel myself gazing into the past. The potential nominees for my nonfiction shelf seem more about the present and the future, as I strive to restore my essential self. Does any of this make sense to you? 

It's time to stop writing about books and return to reading time. I do promise to write in the future about A Religion of One's Own by Thomas Moore. I know it has sparked so many thoughts for me, but they are jumping and bouncing in me and in no shape to sit on a shelf yet. 

An Invitation
You knew what the question would be before getting to this spot in the post, didn't you? What would be on your Ideal Bookshelf? Why? What do the books you have selected say about you--where you've been, who you are and who you are striving to be? I would love to know.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Personal Beatitudes

Blessed are those who sweep and scrub for they will find joy in the rhythm of the ordinary.  

No, you won't find this verse in The Beatitudes in Matthew 5, but perhaps it was left out by mistake or the women cooking Matthew's meals and doing his laundry didn't have his ear the day he worked on that chapter. No problem, I'll just add it.

On Monday evenings I attend a program at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality, a Ministry of the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondolet in St Paul. The sessions are part of the Hedgerow Initiative which offers programming in "feminist theological education, spiritual integration and leadership for a just and holy world." The name is derived from the hedgerow schools in Ireland that "kept alive the language, faith, culture and community of the people during the time of the British penal codes. 

The current series examines the Sunday Gospels from Matthew and John and asks, "What wisdom can we find in the Story and ourselves. What wisdom can we weave to hold us together?"

Wisdom in the Scriptures
Last evening we focused on the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7, which includes the verses known as the Beatitudes. Many of the women there, for yes, we are an all female group, related how they had memorized them in Sunday School or Confirmation class. I don't recall doing that, but I had no trouble reciting a couple, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God." I suspect they are familiar verses to many regardless of one's faith tradition or background. 

Our leader, Joan Mitchell, an extremely bright and knowledgeable scholar, presented these chapters as wisdom literature, offering us precepts for how to live, how to grow through ongoing seeking and searching. Furthermore, she suggested The Beatitudes are generative, meaning we can create more. What is written in the scripture is dynamic and is constantly revised and re-interpreted, depending on what the reader, the seeker brings to the words, The Story. 

Finding Our Own Wisdom
As I walked the few blocks home on one of the few nights of this winter when being outside was pleasant, my own Beatitudes rose from my heart. 

Blessed are the list makers, for they will stay calm in the rush of demands and will find peace in the priorities. 

Blessed are those who turn off their phones, for they will be present.

Blessed are those who wait for spouses and children and repair people and who wait in lines at the grocery store, post office, and Target, for they will develop patience.

Blessed are those who read, for they will never be alone and will find nourishment in new thoughts and ideas. 

Blessed are those who so often feel overwhelmed by choices or possibilities or needs, for they will feel overjoyed with opportunities.

Blessed are those with grandchildren, for they will revive with new love and life.

And a new one this morning:
Blessed for those who listen to their bodies and turn off the alarm, for they will awaken refreshed and restored. 

Today I return to my father's house for more of the sweeping and scrubbing necessary before putting the house on the market. My body is not eager for the hands and knees work required today, but I will take with me my new personal Beatitude, "Blessed are those who sweep and scrub, for they will find joy in the rhythm of the ordinary."

An Invitation
I invite you to create your own Beatitudes. In what ways are you blessed? What do you see around you that is ripe for a blessing? Become your own Matthew and discover your own wisdom. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February's Reflection: Heart Time

I heard on the news yesterday that Walter Mondale, who was Vice President under Jimmy Carter, was at the Mayo Clinic where he had just had heart surgery. Of course, he did, I thought, for surely he is heartbroken. His wife Joan had died only days ago. 

We are brokenhearted when there is a profound loss.

We wear our heart on our sleeve when we can't help but show our love.

We take heart. 

We lose our heart.

We offer our heart.

Pure of heart. Aching heart. Soft heart. Valiant heart. Noble heart. Tender heart. Understanding heart. Peaceful heart. Our heart's desire.

I was driving home from seeing my Dad when I heard about Walter Mondale and instinctively I placed my hand on my heart in  a gesture of understanding, connecting, and blessing.  I am aware of how often I rest my hand on my heart when I hear or see something that touches me. That simple motion in which I sense the power of the organ that maintains the flow of blood through my body reminds me to open my heart to not only what I feel, but to the needs and desires of others. I feel a connection when I touch my heart.

Before I meet with a spiritual directee, I pause with my hand on my heart and I whisper to myself, "Listen with the eyes of your heart." When I find myself in the midst of a heartfelt conversation, whether professionally or personally, when someone is pouring out their heart to me or when I sense a heart that is tight and constricted, I prompt myself to be present with a listening heart. 

A Habit of The Heart
Recently, I decided to set the alarm on my phone to ring at 4:00 in the afternoon every day. That is often a low point of the day for me, but now it has become a welcome time of the day, for the alarm signals me to stop and pause. To rest in silence briefly and listen to the beat of my heart. With my hand on my heart I become more aware of where I am and who I am and of the love I have to share. I become more centered in the life I am blessed to have and for at least an instant, I feel bonded to all of God's creation. 

An Invitation
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I wonder what your heart gesture will be. I invite you to listen with your heart, to offer your heart, to open your heart. Who knows where that will lead! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Dumpster in the Driveway

We are now at the "Dumpster in the Driveway" stage at my father's house. For weeks we have been emptying closets and cupboards and sorting and piling and delivering load after load to Goodwill and the Women's Assistance League resale shop, which my sister manages as a volunteer. We have listed and sold many pieces of furniture on Craigslist (Anyone want a pristine dining room set or couch?) We have waded through boxes of newspaper clippings and photographs--the stuff of a lifetime--and stacks of cupless saucers and decorations for every holiday of the year. On and on and on.

And now it is dumpster time.

Unknown to all of us, underneath the carpet in every room of the house, except the kitchen and bathrooms, there are untouched hardwood floors. My parents bought the house new in 1965, and before we moved in, had the whole house carpeted. That was the style then. Over the years the carpet has been replaced, and the floors were protected in their original state--just what buyers today want.

Thus, the dumpster, which is now loaded with old carpet, along with bags and boxes of miscellaneous items I would rather not recount or remember. For years my brother has joked that when the time came, he would "just get a dumpster." Well, as he and the rest of us have done the dirty work, it's not so funny or easy!

A Spiritual Dumpster
With each trip to that dumpster in the driveway, the house has seemed lighter, and it has occurred to me how amazing it would be if we could rid ourselves of old, unhealthy patterns, hurts and regrets by tossing them into the dumpster.  How much lighter I would feel and be if I tossed the worries and cares and preoccupations into my own personal dumpster. 

I envision filling my own personal dumpster with those hurts and fears, big and small. I know it takes many trips back and forth and lots of digging and letting go before what is no longer needed or usable can be hauled away. As I meditate and pray and reflect, intentionally tossing aside all that prevents me from being the person I was created to be, the harder it is to recall specifically what's buried in those piles. It no longer matters. The hard and dirty and exhausting work will have been done. Work worth doing.

Another Image of Letting Go
Years ago at a retreat I led a woman provided the group with her image for releasing the thoughts and burdens along with the minor irritations, that plagued her from time to time. She imagined herself unplugging, pulling a cord from a socket, cutting off the power source from what was draining her energy. She acknowledged that sometimes the unplugged thought, worry, or  expectation --the buzzing in her ears-- replugged itself into the source, and she would need to jerk it out again. Eventually, however, there simply wasn't enough wattage to keep the old thought alive. 

Along the way, of course, there are light moments, including picnics in the living room where no one was ever allowed to eat. In fact, we only gathered in there as a family a couple times a year--Christmas Day and Easter and the occasional graduation or wedding party. We have laughed and told lots of stories and then we have resumed the work of filling the dumpster.

An Invitation
What needs to go into the dumpster in your driveway or what needs to lose power in your life? Close your eyes and imagine yourself throwing whatever needs to be forgotten or resolved into a dumpster or envision yourself pulling the plug on whatever prevents you from moving forward. You can do it. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February's Meditation: Gathering of Angels

The first Thursday of each month I offer you a meditation to use during the month. Here is the meditation for February.

I met an angel the other day. She appeared just when I needed her. 

I had a long list of errands to do, but unexpectedly another one was added to my list; one that was not difficult and that I was more than willing to do, but one that would add a big chunk of time onto the already crowded day. I found myself in the county department of public health in order to get a copy of my son's birth certificate. The reasons aren't important, but there I sat holding number 74, which wasn't bad really, since number 61 had been called soon after I arrived. However, only one person was working, and the waiting room was full. 

I sat down next to two elderly African American women, one had a walker, and the other seemed quite agitated about why they were there. I smiled at them, and we exchanged good mornings, but then I nestled in with something to read. I am almost always prepared with something to read. I told myself to relax and be patient and to remember that my list of errands would unfold and be accomplished as I was able and there was time. 

After a half hour or so, number 64 was called, and I heard the woman next to me say they were next, and then I heard her express in surprise that she had mistakenly taken two numbers, 65 and 66. In her angel raiment, she offered me number 66. Needless to say, I was thrilled, as was the person on the other side of me who had 80 something when I gave him my 74. 

I met an angel, and in my own limited way I was an angel. 

When did you last meet an angel and when were you angelic energy for someone else? February seems like the perfect month to invoke angels into your life.

Angelic Beliefs
What do you believe about angels? One widely held belief is that at least two angels are charged with our care at birth. Another is that the archangels Uriel, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are ready and willing to help when we call upon them. I have known the help of angel wings in profound and unexpected ways, feeling lovingly protected even when I didn't know I needed such care. I believe angels are waiting in the wings in my life --and in yours. Angels, I believe, reflect the energy of God, and one way that energy is reflected is when you and I surrender to the best and highest within ourselves and not only are open to the presence of angels in our lives, but become an angel for someone else.

A Meditation to Invoke the Energy of Angels
I invite you to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes lightly, not tightly. Take a couple deep cleansing breaths and allow your body to relax into slow, even breathing.

In this quiet, sacred space you create for yourself, imagine yourself filling with angelic light, love, joy, and solace. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, call upon Archangel Uriel to clear your mind. Breathe in purity of heart and wisdom.

If you are feeling weak and fearful, invoke the Archangel Gabriel
to remind you that you have and are all you need. Breathe in strength and courage.

If you are feeling unloving and unloveable, invoke the Archangel Michael to open your heart in true loving kindness towards yourself and others. Breathe in acceptance and flowing love.

If you are feeling ill or have specific health concerns about yourself or others, invoke the Archangel Raphael to bring healing and well-being. Breathe in hope and new life. 

If you have recently been blessed by the presence of an angel, offer deep gratitude and ask that you may be transformed into an angelic presence for others. 

Take a couple deep cleansing breaths, and when you are ready, open your eyes and return to this time and space. 

Take a few minutes to note, perhaps in a journal or by whispering to yourself, what you felt, noticed, or learned during this brief time of meditation. What will you now bring into your life?

A Blessing--The Protection Prayer
May the light of God surround you.
May the love of God enfold you.
May the power of God protect you.
May the presence of God watch over you.
Wherever you are, God is. 

An Invitation
What has been your experience of angels as the energy of God? When have you unfurled your own wings and realized the presence of angels within you?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Craigslist and Moving On and Out

Last night three very nice and strong young men came to my Dad's house to pick up the china cupboard we had listed on Craigslist. Sunday Marie and her husband came to see it, and she fell in love with it and clearly wanted it. However, this monster-sized one-piece stalwart of our family dining room was not going to leave the house easily. The couple examined and strategized how to manage the move, while my husband and I continued the ongoing packing and emptying of my Dad's house, readying it for a For Sale sign. 

Last night they returned and I checked one more item off the list. Yes! We are moving on and moving out.

Moving On and Out as a Spiritual Path
If you have gone through this process of dealing with your parents' home and belongings, either because of their deaths or moving them into a senior living facility, you know how challenging doing this can be. Exhausting--emotionally and physically exhausting. 
I know there are many ways to accomplish this process--all of them require time and lots of decisions, and none of them are without effort. Our family has chosen a more hands-on method perhaps than some of you have elected, but like being on a spiritual path, no one way is the right and only way. 

Of course, this process of selling and cleaning and packing and sorting and choosing and tossing and delegating is a spiritual path, too, although sometimes it feels like a detour.

Sunday as I waited for this charming couple to make their decision, I could feel my Sunday slipping away. I wanted to return to my "real life." I want the task of getting Dad's house ready to sell to be over --and to do what I want to do, but--and here's the rub--I don't really want to do the tasks right in front of me. When I arrive at Dad's, sometimes I am almost paralyzed. My husband and sister zoom around me, but I have a hard time revving up to get the job done. 

You may have heard writers sometimes say that what they love about writing is "having written," and not the doing of the writing itself.  I happen to love the writing process, but when it comes to Dad's house, I want it DONE. I want to look back at what we have accomplished. 

I am not present to the task OR I wonder if I am too much present to it. Either way we are in the midst of it, and it will get done, thanks to our ongoing time and efforts. We will do it--we are doing it, but I am having a hard time viewing it as anything but duty, a drain on my time and energy. I feel my own life drifting away. Where's the room for the work I feel as a call? The writing I want and need to do? The groups I would like to start and the spiritual direction practice I would like to resurrect? The reconnecting with friends and family here and staying connected with friends and family at a distance? All that seems piled away in boxes going to Goodwill. 

Pausing in the Midst
This much is clear: I need to pause occasionally, to find the moments of beauty, of grace, of love, of the Divine. I stop and watch the sparrows at the bird feeder outside our dining room window and Mr and Mrs Cardinal in the bushes. I allow my heart to open like the unbroken expanse of snow in Dad's backyard. I give myself a breather when I unearth a forgotten treasure like the tiny heart-shaped frame with a sweet picture of Mom and Dad in it. We engage in some memory sharing as we work and that lightens the load as well. I am delighted when the woman who bought many pieces of wicker for her new beauty salon sends me a thank you note. How nice is that! 

I know this work offers me lessons about shedding your stuff before your family has to do it for you, but I pray I can see the opportunities as well. How is this time as life-enhancing as sitting at my desk and writing? 

Words of Wisdom
Thomas Moore in his new book A Religion of One's Own, A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, encourages "digging into your work as though it were the meaning of your life." The operative words for me are "as if." Maybe I need to fake it a bit, hoping that the doing will expand into greater meaning. Moore quotes the Gospel of Thomas in which Jesus says, "Split a piece of wood. I am there."

God is there as I schlepp more boxes to Goodwill, as we throw years of neglect and denial into garbage bags. God is in that house as we prepare it for another family's history and life. We have had ours there, and as we detach ourselves enough to do the work that needs to be done, we need to remember that this too is sacred ground. 

From the Tao Te Ching
            See simplicity in the complicated
            Achieve greatness in little things.

Today is another day in which it is necessary and good to devote myself to chopping wood, to doing the tasks one little thing at a time, to focus on what is in front of me at the moment, to breathe in the sense of God's presence around and within me. Amen

An Invitation
What aspects of your life right now feel more like a detour than your "real life"? What are your strategies for coping and growing and finding God's presence?