SLEEPING IN CASHMERE

white goat eating grass during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Perhaps as you read the heading above, you wondered if I didn’t know that the geographic place in the Great Himalayas is spelled Kashmir, and not cashmere.  But the truth of the matter is I’ve never been to India, or the Himalayas. Yet I have been sleeping in cashmere without leaving home–and before you judge this as a prosperity issue, let me explain.

I’m in the first month of treatment for an illness that has overtaken my immune system over the past 9 months. My whole body–just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz–knows: “this ain’t Kansas anymore.”  On any day, I don’t know what system, organ, or part of my body will have a tantrum.  It’s like my body has turned into a fun house (not so fun) and there are surprises behind every door.

The other night, in the middle of the night, I was first sweating and then freezing.  No temperature adjustment in the house would have made a difference; this is just a symptom of what’s happening within me. Not wanting to wake up husband and dogs by turning on lights… I went into my closet in the dark and felt around up on the shelf on the back left corner where my sweaters live.  I put my hand on one that had no buttons or embellishment and pulled it over my head. Ahh.  Warm.  Not too heavy.  Not too light.  I was just right!  A Goldilocks moment. Imagine my surprise in the morning when I woke up in a cashmere sweater that was a Christmas gift a few years ago.  “Nice sweater!”

Indeed it was.  Or it is.  And as I thought about it… it was also just what I needed.  It was comforting in its softness.  It was/is just the right weight and breathe-ability. And I get some kind of vicarious pleasure having slept in something I once considered almost too special. In fact, I  have ‘saved it’ more than ‘worn it’ as not to ruin it.  At that rate it would die a death of moth holes rather than wear out.  But not now.

Every night since then I slip on my sweater over my night clothes as I get ready for bed. I keep it on in the morning as I make my kale rich smoothie.  When dressing for the day, I fold it over the back of the chair nearest my bed, so that it will be there to warm and comfort me not only in body, but in mind and in spirit.

I have most always known that the Creator of the universe, is not stingy or frugal but lavish with all. Well, I’ve known it in my head.  But over the past week or so, I’ve begun to learn it better in my heart.  I’ve realized that this little gesture of self-care helps in my healing process in more ways than I can count.  I am reminded that I am a child of a generous God…that I am worthy…that I am cared for each time the softness of my sweater makes its presence known.  It’s like sleeping in a divine hug.

A few years ago when serving on a committee which welcomed new pastor’s into the area, I always was the person in the room who asked the question about self-care.  Pastor’s notoriously don’t take care of themselves until its critical.  I’d ask them to tell me about their habits, interests or hobbies outside of the profession that tended to their emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.  Some had a hard time answering the question.  Others had a hard time even understanding it!

Should I be asked the question at this changing time in my life:  What are my habits, interest or hobbies that tend to my emotional, mental and spiritual well-being one of the first things I’d have to say “sleeping in cashmere.”  Seems like such a little thing.

And yet I offer it to you. Maybe this little blog can get you thinking about how you care for you in the midst of your life right now.  What are you doing to tend to your emotional, mental and spiritual well-being? Whether able bodied or otherwise, self-care can be as simple as pulling a sweater down off the shelf in the dark and can make a profound impact on your well-being.  It did mine.

Know today, that the generous Creator of the Universe loves you, and so do I.

Kathleen Bronagh Weller      THECELTICMONK     APRIL 12, 2019

 

 

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Splashing, Bubbling and Gurgling

IMG_8174 Recently while on retreat as I walked in to the Abbey Church early each morning, there was simply the sound of silence.  In fact on the first morning, I had to use my cell phone as a flashlight, as it was pitch dark!  But once settled in I would begin to hear the water bubbling and gurgling from the baptismal font pictured here.  It was a  lovely sound.  A familiar sound.  A calming sound.

On reflection it seems surprising to me that it took me so long to hear it.  And yet…  There was that darkness that I needed to negotiate.  And I was on unfamiliar ground.  There was an unspoken feeling of aloneness, even if that was what I was seeking.  And through all of what was going on inside of me, this the font just did what it always did–24 hours and day 365 days a year.  It was mine to notice, or not.

I’ve begun to consider how very much this is scenario true of the whole of our lives; and how particularly true it is of our spiritual lives.  What does being “on unfamiliar ground” do to your ability to really see what is happening around you?  Can you find a way to settle, or listen, or be at peace in any present darkness?  Or how is it, in times that are new or changing do you hear or experience the grace of God, God’s Spirit or voice?

We all have options, we quickly realize, in darkness, or in unfamiliar territory, or when we feel particularly alone. We can react to these situations with annoyance, anger or rage (which by the way is a continuum…once we allow one, the others aren’t far behind!)  So we can, as they say “curse the darkness” what ever that is currently for us. But I believe there is a better way.

In any loneliness, darkness or changing in our lives, there is always the bubbling, calming, gurgling font–the voice, grace and Presence–Who is always with us.  Even when we are too distracted to notice, as I was that first morning.  Even when the sounds of our own ego are screaming at high pitch.  Still then, maybe especially then, the One who is closer than our breath, is waiting to be heard, waiting to be seen, waiting to give comfort, and peace.

While on retreat,  it took me four mornings, to really listen as I came into the Abbey Church well before dawn.  It took me three full days of observing silence and being intentional about listening…to actually hear.  We are not a people who gladly get off any hobby horse(s) we are riding in our heads!  But sometimes, it just takes an invitation to listen to really listen. And sometimes we have to hear the invitation over and over.

For me, the invitation during that week away came in the constancy of the font.  How appropriate that the invitation to listen, the invitation to grace, to peace came by a simple awareness of the waters of baptism.  For indeed what I heard was lovely. What I heard was calming and the giver of peace–and just seeing the photo above reminds me of the goodness always available every moment of every day.

So this year, I am giving thanks for the sounds and the silences that lead me to hear the grace that is splashing and bubbling and gurgling all around me.  And I invite you to your own awareness of the splashing and bubbling and gurgling  in your life–for the One who Is, Who was and Who is to come (like the font) is speaking 24/7/365.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING,

kathleen

Kathleen.bronagh.weller.thecelticmonk

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Being the healing light

Something much easier to preach these days, than to practice, is the art of not adding to the fear and the fury of the tumultuous social and political events of our day.  We seem to have lost the gift and the blessing of restraint, and the ability to harness rather than share anger and/or outrage.

Not as trite as it sounds, what comes to mind is Dr. Phil’s question… how’s that working for you?  Does sharing wrath make your day a better day?  Are you fit or even civil company?  Does staying glued to news outlets help you share a sense of peace and joy with those around you?  So my answer to these questions is obvious: No.  Spewing makes my stomach churn, my blood pressure rise.  My anger makes me more likely to cut others to the quick.  It makes me anxious. How about you?

People I both love and respect who in other circumstances would be taking the high road, in this current untenable situation of our nation, on an hourly, daily or weekly basis are taking the low road.  And this is my own fear, in doing this we are becoming like what/who we hate. We are acting like what/who we despise.  We have lost some the objectivity to reflect on what we are saying or doing. And in the deeps within we know this to be true.

For me, it’s a matter of time. Yes, minutes and hours.  How much time do I spend each day burrowing in the darkness?  And how much time do I spend in soaking up and sharing light?  And when I’m in the downward spiral–can I simply walk away?  What is my trigger to tell me to ‘take the nearest exit’ for my own safety?  What can I do, where can I go, what can pull me out?  And what is it that brings me back to neutral, or even better sets my feet on high places?

We all find our own way, don’t we, in troubled times.  I spent all of 2017 (Yikes!) and part of 2018 angry, disgruntled and disgusted. Nothing that I saw as the root of that has changed…but at an unknown time and in a secret place inside a lever was thrown, some thing shifted in my inner being.  It was not that simple and I do not know the day or the hour, but my awareness became just this: what if  I spent even half the time and energy I was spending in the dark and instead use it for the purposeful spread of light?  Is it possible that the world would already begin to become a different place–a place of which I would be proud to be a part.

There is no single book, no sacred writing, no favorite author or speaker that I can point to for this new thought, revived hope and beckoning practice.  It just came.  It just dawned, slowly and gently.  My conviction is that it is the fruit of my practice of sitting meditation with the words of Augustine as my mantra:  “Noverim Te, noverim me”  — I look at God, I look at myself.   It is a gift that I am still growing into in fits and starts.

It is also a truth that is branching out into my whole life–personally and professionally.  What would it look like for you to “bless those who curse you?”  I don’t mean who literally curse you, but those whose actions are a curse to you, whose words and plans curse the meaning of life you hold dear?  What would it take for you to bless them.

Let me be the first to confess the difficulty of this blessing thing.  I could give you a long list of people for whom it would be insincere of me to verbally bless.  But what if my thoughts and actions were those of blessing–when their actions enraged me?  What if instead of cursing, railing, and blathering; what if instead, on their behalf and in their name, I blessed someone in my sphere of influence with goodness, with kindness, with generosity.  What if I determined to became a cosmic counterpoint?

These are my hopes and dreams friends, for myself and for you.  That we all would find a way to live moment by moment in such light, that the whole earth might begin to sense that there is healing light growing in the darkness.  That there is healing light in me.  That there is healing light in you.

In brightness,  Kathleen  — the celtic monk

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An Invitation

AN INVITATION    7:30 a.m and 7:30 p.m. 

What was the last thing you were invited to attend?  I don’t mean the herd invitation… everyone is invited. I mean the personal invitation as in I’d be so happy if you would join me, or come with me, or come and see…

Most of us are invited often to be part of a crowd.  Come to the spaghetti supper!  Come to the Farmer’s Market!  Come to the Strawberry Festival, the Film Festival, the … well you can just fill in the blank.

I am writing to invite you to a very small gathering.  I am writing to invite you to an event where you and I will be the only visible participants.  I am writing to invite you to meet me (every morning at 7:30 a.m. EDST and every evening at 7:30 p.m. EDST) for a journey into your relationship with God which, as it turns out, ends up being a journey not only towards God, but towards yourself and into every relationship in your life.

I am calling this time a retreat… because the content when added up would make a wonderful week long retreat in a lovely setting.  But we all can’t just gather ourselves to get away, can we.  Yet, it’s likely that our soul would benefit from some focus.  It’s likely that we could use some encouragement to become or stay faithful in our spiritual practice or discipline.  What better way than to be able to participate anywhere we can connect to the Internet where we will move through this time leading to Holy Week and the joy of Easter slowly, reverently and together. 

How many good intentions I’ve had for keeping a spiritual practice for Lent…as a reminder that Jesus’ way had now turned and He was on His way to Jerusalem…only to let it fall away.   So beginning February 14th, Ash Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. I will be LIVE on the Peace River Spirituality Center Facebook page.  I will be there each Monday through Friday morning and night all the way to Good Friday, March 30th.  We will meet in the morning 7:30 a.m. for a very short bit of inspiration and 20 minutes of silent meditation.  We will gather back in the evening for Compline, evening prayer,  7:30 p.m. which will include an additional 15 minutes of silence.  Twice a day.  30 minutes each.  Monday-Friday.

There is a Retreat booklet available to download at: http://peaceriverspirituality.org/pilgrimages-and-retreats/live-2018-lent-retreat/?view=mobile    It has an overview of where our journey will take us. It includes everything you shall need to participate.  You can download and print it for easiest use.

So join me, won’t you?  There is no pressure.  No papers.  No attendance record.  No grade at the end. Just an accomplishment towards your own spiritual deepening–and time spent letting God get a word in edgewise in my life and yours. 

To participate LIVE… you can go to the Peace River Spirituality Center page on Facebook and “Like” it.  The twice daily videos should automatically begin to be fed to your Facebook page.  You can view the modules (48 hours later) on the Pine Shores Presbyterian Church’s web page, where they will be archived.

I know.  This is not a usual invitation. Nor is this a usual retreat.  But it holds the possibility of being a wonderful deepening adventure for you and me.  What to you say?  Wanna come?

In peace and with joy,

Kathleen

KATHLEEN BRONAGH WELLER — thecelticmonk 

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Hope as a Verb

HOPE

Is there a difference for you between a wish, a hope or a dream?  I know I sometimes use those words interchangeably in a fanciful way:  I wish I was going on vacation… I hope I am going on vacation… I am dreaming of being on vacation!

But when matters are more serious, or even grave…do I still use these words as if they meant the same thing?  I wish I didn’t need surgery… I hope I don’t need surgery… I dreamt I did not need surgery?  [I have no surgery planned]  No, I don’t use these words in the same way when speaking of something more consequential, more serious.

In a conversation yesterday with sister spiritual directors, one of them related something she’d heard over the weekend and that she was still in the process of unpacking and wondering about.  Her little something also captured my attention so, that it bubbled up first thing this morning.  At a conference from which she’s just returned, the speaker offered this seemingly simple thought: “hope without action leads to despair.”  Hope without action leads to despair.  How does that feel to you?  Hold that thought.

So this morning I was on a social media site and read one of those posts that come up every so often.  They are the equivalent to a chain letter…that if you don’t pass it on…something terrible will happen to you, but if you do, something wonderful will happen.  The post was about a serious matter, cancer.  But somehow the author believed that pasting this chain letter was efficacious.

It was in reading that frivolous post on social media,  that Patricia’s wondering came back to me.  And let me state my inkling, or my fear, up front.  My fear is that many people… with a great hope for something good… believe (erroneously) that posting on social media is action; is doing something.  And while being heart-feltly concerned for a friend or family member with cancer…hoping for their survival is a call to action–a social media post is not an action.

The most likely actions for such a hope may be a call to prayer. Or a call to listening to the person’s pain.  Maybe it’s a call to make a supper, to watch their kids, to hold their hand, to drive them to an appointment.  To not have our true hope(s) become despair… action is needed.  Real action…not false action…fake action.

But we’ve been duped, en masse, into believing that doing a COPY and PASTE on a social media site is doing something.  Whether its something as serious as health concerns, the working of our politics, or our concern for the welfare of the earth–let me assure you that COPY AND PASTE will not help a person, people or cause.  And it will not hold back despair.  It cannot hold back your despair.

It is not lost on me that I am sitting here with my laptop literally on my lap to share this “aha” moment of mine on another social media outlet.  But  if just one of you who reads this begins to think about those things for which you hope…and actually takes a step toward action (real action) then I’m blessed.  And you will be too.  

Wishes and dreams are magical, friends.  Sometimes, they can even keep a little light burning in a  dark or scary space for a while.  But hope?  Our hopes must have feet on them. Our hopes call us beyond ourselves for our own good and/or the good of others.  And when great hopes are not matched with great action…they can lead to despair.

I did not Copy and Paste the item on my timeline this morning.  But I’m engaged in discovering an action step for those things that rise from wish or dream status in my life to a true hope.  And I’ve written this little piece, because I hope you will do the same.

In much peace and with love,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller
THECELTICMONK

   

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CLICK ! CLICK ! CLICK!

John Main Seminar  2011 in Cork  
Laurence Freeman/Kathleen Weller

Dear Ones,

Earlier this August, I attended the 2017 John Main Seminar.  We were hosted on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in the museum district of Houston, Texas.  People travelled from Venezuela, Trinidad, Australia and beyond to attend. I still  have much to unpack from the week; much to yet ponder.

The seminar began with a four-day guided silent retreat with Laurence Freeman (Benedictine) who is the Executive Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation.  He led us through short talks on finding our way to the “inner room” in our meditation.  Citing Scripture, the practice of Lectio Divina, and the images of the Rothko Chapel, Fr. Laurence made a compelling case on how we may be led into stillness and silence. A silence we practiced 6 times a day for 25 minutes each sitting.  What I want to share is more experience and interpretation than information.  It so happens that the experience I want to share occurred on the very first day and continued to open itself the rest of the week.  

Our designated location at the university was a lecture hall with rows and rows of theatre-style seats with steep steps declining toward the stage below.  On the stage was a single table covered with a colorful cloth, an icon of Christ, flowers and a candle.  Next to the table was a chair for Fr. Laurence.  

Most often I made my way down to within the first few rows as the spaces near the top filled up first. The room was chilled for the number of persons who would fill it…but as they say “heat rises” so I was always wrapped in a pashmina I carried for just such an occasion.  On this particular day I had the fortune of sitting in the first row, the one with the most leg room.  After Laurence’s introduction, he led us into our first group meditation…”Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of  the Spirit of Your Son, lead us into that mysterious silence where Your love is revealed to all who call… Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.” (John Main’s prayer)

As the bowl was struck three times, more than 100 people settled in for our first of thirty different opportunities to sit in silence together over the week.  The lights dimmed. The sneezes and coughs faded. Still. Very still. 

A while into the silence there was a loud “Click” the dimmed lights went off completely and there was utter darkness. On its heals another “Click” and the air-conditioning in the room also went off.  With maybe only seconds between there was a third “Click” and a single emergency light came on high in a corner of the room.  It was only a few more minutes until the bowl rang again 3 times to end our silent prayer.  The lights all came back up by the push of a button in the video control booth.

I didn’t think much more about the experience that day, until I realized it happening again and again as we gathered to sit in silence. Not so neatly and deliberately as that first time, but nonetheless, each time.  And as Laurence’s teaching on creating an inner room in our heart continued to unfold… those now familiar clicks began to tell me a story. A story of how our inclination is to create activity, busy-ness and noise rather than tending to a point of silence. 

As I ruminated on it I realized that the first click was the computer-driven smart buildings’ way of saying “nothing is happening here.”  Through its sensors, though there were 100+ people in the room, it saw the space as empty.  No need for all these lights, even dimmed.  Since there’s been no movement for 20 minutes, time to shut down.  The smart-building letting us know that silence and stillness are not valued here … “Click.”

The second click was that same building turning off the air-conditioning.  With no one moving it sensed no need to chill the place. It was saving energy, although there were a lot of people who would now not have new air to breathe.  This second click became for me a reminder that their is a Breath that is of utmost importance in our lives; and it is not the breath a smart-building can take away. …”Click.”

The final click was that a small square emergency light that came on high in the front corner of the room.  It was just enough light to let you know you were not on a smooth surface.  Just enough light that you could see the outline of rows of chairs and aisles and EXIT signs above the doors.  Just enough..but not quite enough.  Following the lead of Laurence’s teaching I received it as a sign, a hope, for the light within us all that is waiting to shine…waiting to show itself when once we enter the inner room of our heart through stillness and silence.  There is indeed a Light within… the light of God, the spark of the divine … “Click”

In a conversation around a table toward the end of that week, I shared the skeleton of this experience. I shared it again as a devotional before a monthly meeting upon my return.  Each time I do, I learn more. There are so many nuances to these three clicks.  Maybe there are others that you see or that speak to that still place inside of you.  

We indeed have benefitted from the age of technology.  But in some cases, as I think the above is evidence, we have created systems and objects that keep us from our true selves, that keep us from the Light that shines in the darkness not visible with human eyes.  Perhaps its time to listen for those “Clicks” — to listen, to wonder, to understand.  And to give Thanks!

In stillness and silence of heart,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller  
THECELTICMONK

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THE PRESENT AND COMING LIGHT

Dear Friends,

        Every once in a while, I get stopped by an image.  Most often, I am reading or looking for something else when such an image seems quite simply to call my name.  It insists I pay attention. It says, “look here,” or “this is important.”  or “I’m what you were looking for.” 

        At least that’s what the image above said to me–when I saw it.  Yet I didn’t stop.  Because of course I was too busy. It’s December for heaven’s sake.  There are concerts and teas and parties and gifts to be bought and wrapped.  There’s traditional food to be made and cookies.  Don’t forget the cookies.

        Yet this particular image was persistent, so as is my habit I simply hit COPY and SAVE and it ended up in my bottomless folder of images that try to speak to me.  The ones I save for someday. And some of them have been there a long time!

        But as I read the first Chapter of John she called to me again, and I went to that folder with all those images and retrieved her.  I put John chapter 1 down and when I found her John’s Good News leapt from the page: “What has come into being in Christ, was life, and the life was the Light of all people.”  The Light of All People.

        You know sometimes, or maybe most of the time, we can get tongue-tied when we read the poetry of John’s Gospel… but this image made it more real for me than I ever knew it to be.  Christ, the light of all the people. Christ in me, my hope of glory.  Christ above me, beneath me, shining through me and you, and you…  Christ within me, illumining my heart and mind and yours.  Blessings and grace penetrating all people. 

       A second barrage of thoughts came as I sat a little longer looking at the photograph. It was only then that it occurred to me that while illuminating, it would also be consistent that the sun would necessarily be melting those on which it cast its rays.  And that similarly, when we allow the light of Christ into us… we do not control what may happen next.  Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Have Thine own way, Lord—

       Many of us were not taught or encouraged towards the use of pictures, representations or icons in prayer. But I often find the quiet sitting with an image, is much like the process of Divine Reading (Lectio Divina) except it is Visio Divina or Divine Seeing.  Meditating on this image revealed much about God and God’s relationship to us all in ways that words never could.
       This year we have a particularly long season of Advent—a season of waiting.  Let me encourage you to allow yourself to be stopped by something you see.  And then to tarry there is prayer. Invite the Spirit to illumine your understanding.  Take a moment to step away from all the busyness to just look and listen for a while. I’ll be praying for whatever God might be ready to birth in you this year.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Kathleen Bronagh Weller —
THECELTICMONK

P.S.  I think the above photo has all the invitations of Advent waiting.  It is saying:   

“look here,”  “this is important,”  and “I AM what you are looking for.”

                                                        To God be the glory. 

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