Tag Archives: Spirituality
• Finding sanctuary.
• Listening to earth-spirit whispers.
• Sharing our stories and experiences.
• Developing the heart-dimensions of who we are.
• Becoming monks in the world, as we take our learning and presence seriously, playfully, compassionately back into the world when we part.
• Living from a deeper place within ourselves in each encounter as we live our daily lives: the passionate, connecting, transforming power that we can bring to the healing of one another and our world.
“Our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately that its being may rise again, ‘invisibly’ in us.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, 1925
The snow covers the ground here.
The light with its long shadows, the bare branches – it seems that everything is dead.
But this death is another stage of life. With your hand, brush away the snow, and the signs of life will be there. Seeds are waiting to awaken, the insects are there, animals are burrowed in dens. The days grow longer. Hold them near. The wheel of life is turning.
Dark and Light
Let us not be too quick to rush toward the light. A blanket of darkness wraps us in its stillness, and we turn in on ourselves. Dark nurtures the deep sunseeds, fosters the gestation of dreams. In old northern European traditions, Dark is valued as necessary in its cyclical and spiraling dance with the Light. We need Light’s kinship with Darkness.
Our ancestors from the northern reaches of the world experienced extended daylight in summer, and very long nights in winter. The primary division in Celtic sacred time is between the Dark and Light halves of the year. The Light half of the year is an outward time, when things happen rapidly, and in plain sight. In the dark half, the experience of change is minimized, the will is muted, and what is called for is contemplation, seeds hidden in the darkness, in the womb of our being, out of which new events and ways of life will grow, as the balance shifts. While these Dark and Light halves signify the seasons of the year, it goes deeper than that, because each event or process in our lives throughout the year has Dark and Light modes operative within them. Both Dark and Light principles of are of equal importance, but they are never static. That’s what introduces the triad, the love of threeness, in Celtic understanding: the fundamental sacred element, the spark from the Otherworld, that keeps everything changing, shifting, flowing and growing.
Let us not be too quick to rush toward the light. All true growth takes place in darkness, below the level of consciousness. Creativity is born in the unconscious, the womb as its symbol, the cauldron image which is so dear to the Celtic tradition. In the dark bubbling of the cauldron, transformation slowly takes place. In the dark we rest, attentive to the influence of the unconscious, the sacred, and an openness to the sunseeds hidden in the dark, the growth that is slow and unhurried.
While dark is necessary and complementary with light, we cannot discount the psychological effects upon us as humans. We cannot help but be joyful at the return of the light, the turning point. The Child of Light is born, the Mabon ap Madron in Welsh mythology, the son of the great mother. In these ancient tales, the spirit of Christmas predates Christianity. We are made confident that the seed of light, grown in the womb of dark, will grow and bloom in its proper season.
We gather in the room in darkness, with only the small hearth fire for light. As each of us speaks about what has been gestating for her, she lights a candle. We go round and round the circle, until at last, after many stories have been told, the room is ablaze with candlelight and we are aglow as we let our lights shine.
At another celebration, we turn out all the lights in the large building. Then we sing and drum and call the sun back to us, and surprise! The lights come on! The children love it. Then we form a great human chain to dance in a spiral throughout the building, singing The Lord of the Dance.
In closing I offer a prayer written in the Celtic tradition by J. Phillip Newell , where a sense of the sacredness of nature is blended with a religious concern for the world:
O Sun behind all suns
O Soul within all souls
Grant me the grace of the dawn’s glory
Grant me the strength of the sun’s rays
That I may be well in my own soul
And part of the world’s healing this day . . .
In preparing for the upcoming series Growing Older, Growing Wiser: Becoming an Elderwoman, I came across the article below, which was written when I first decided to present the series. It was originally published in The Eddy, the newsletter of the organization Wellspring Haven.
Autumn Reflections, by Katharine Houk
Lately, a cold wind has been rattling the last, clinging leaves of autumn. The mellow days have passed; winter is almost upon us. The harvest is in, my herb garden has been put to bed, and the geese are winging south.
At this autumn time, I am very aware that I have entered what is sometimes referred to as the “autumn” of life, even though inside I feel young, vital, and creative. In the past decade, I have given much thought to what it means to be entering the Third Age of my life: reading, talking with older women, revisiting my past, deepening spiritual practices, conducting research. I wish to live these years in a conscious and fruitful way, savoring each moment.
This autumn I attended a conference especially for women who have discovered that age is something to celebrate. There I enjoyed workshops, drumming, dancing, an “Honoring of the Elders,” small group gatherings, storytelling, and a beautiful labyrinth in the woods, where some deer and two owls appeared at twilight to accompany me on my otherwise solitary walk. Over two hundred women were at the conference, with the workshops being led by the women attending, much as Wellspring Haven conducts its Annual Women’s Campout. Women’s circles are thriving everywhere. It was fascinating to attend a conference designed expressly for Elderwomen, and I came away feeling as though I had experienced an initiation into my Third Age…
Delightfully, being in the autumn of life feels enormously liberating, as I find myself more at peace than ever before. It’s a feeling of lightness, and spaciousness. In my life I have learned from many experiences, both joyful and painful, and I intend to keep learning and growing as long as I am able. Each of us has her life story, rich with experience and insight. Sharing those stories empowers us.
Entering these final decades can be challenging, considering the changes which aging brings and the social attitudes toward older women in our culture. We are “crones,” or “hags” – two words that used to have very different connotations than they do now. “Crone” comes from the same root as the word “crown,” and “hag” mean “holy one,” which is why the study of saints’ lives is known as hagiography. It’s time to reclaim the honor that those words formerly conveyed.
…Becoming an Elderwoman, a Wisewoman, is an ongoing process. Growing older in and of itself is no guarantee of growing wiser. Here is my (and our) “how-to” challenge and adventure: How To Become an Elderwoman, someone aging with grace, good humor, joy, and wisdom. There are things we can do to make our autumn journeys conscious ones, as we deepen our awareness of who we truly are and how we want to live our Third Age. Let’s grow older and wiser together!
Welcome home to Sanctuary Without Walls. SWW sponsors gatherings and other events in Columbia County, NY ~ for spiritual sustenance, naturally. It is a home for
- those who wish to develop or deepen their spiritual practices and lives, but who may or may not have a religious community in which to do so, or
- who wish to supplement their experiences with a more diverse group. These gatherings are an experiment, born of my interactions with many people who feel a need for connection, community, and spirituality, grounded in everyday life.
Welcome to Sanctuary Without Walls!