I spent Thursday through Sunday at Walburga Abbey for a retreat titled, "Weaving, Labyrinth, and the Contemplative Experience." Basically, we used the labyrinth for our prayer--individually and as a group--and spent the remaining time weaving a tapestry. For those of you who know me, it will not come as a surprise that I did my tapestry differently. Instead of working in a linear manner, I wanted to do a weaving in the round. Our director, a very artsy, talented woman, was all for it. She encouraged us to be creative in whatever way we wanted to. I have been working my way through Savary's new book, "The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin," and I wanted to do something within the movement of that prayer. When I think of the cosmos and the way that I experience the movement of the Spirit, it is always in a spiral. So, here is what I created:
I worked my way from sun to sky, to grass and then water, with the water then working its way out into the rest of space. The rays touch all of the places. Time consuming but fun, and a great way to transition into the next piece of the Exercises.
It was a very eclectic group of people on the retreat. Lots of family groups came--mostly mothers and daughters--which made me a little homesick. My mom would have loved it! One mom brought her eight-year-old son. He was so dear. He would collect all of our dishes as we finished eating and pre-wash them for the sisters. Eventually the sister in charge just got him a bucket of soapy water and some gloves and made him official.
I have never stayed at an Abbey before. I enjoyed talking with a couple of the sisters and praying some of their prayer schedule with them, although, I am quite certain that monastic religious life is not my calling. When the sisters came into chapel together, they would come up in twos, bow or genuflect to the tabernacle and then turn and bow to each other. It reminded me of my yoga sessions and the "Namaste" we offer each other in the end. Another highlight was at the end of evening prayer when the Abbess blessed everyone present before sending us off to bed. Again, not my calling, but some very dear and meaningful practices and relationships.
The picture at right is taken from the Abbey grounds. I was commenting on how close the smoke looked when Sister Hildegard assured me that, while it looked close, it was at least ten miles away. The fires continue to grow in number and size, and I heard today that half of all wildfire firefighters are already here in Colorado.
Today, I went white water rafting. You might ask what white water rafting has to do with preparation for vows. In college we named images of consolation and desolation. For me desolation is downhill skiing. It looks incredibly painful when skiiers wipe out with skiis twisting knees in all which ways. Consolation is white water rafting. I get a helmet and a life jacket, get into a big, blow-up raft with a guide and a group of others and set off for a river adventure. The river carries us. Sure, we have to paddle occassionally, avoid major obstacles, try not to fall out, but, if I do fall out, there is someone there to help haul me back in. In downhill skiing, I initiate the movement, I push off. More of the control (assuming I had any) is with me.
On this trip, I was very aware of paddling. It is best if the paddlers are all in sync. The man in front of me was often distracted by scenery and usually missed at least the first stroke. I was trying to decide whether it was better to get in the first stroke without him, or to wait and start together. I also paid a lot of attention to paddling through major rapids. It was tempting to pull my paddle out early if my side was nearing a large rock, to just lean in for what felt like safety. But, today I really listened to the guide, I watched the water more than the rocks, I made the strokes count, I continued to paddle--not pull away--at the toughest points. It was a beautiful day with so many applications to prayer and life.
I leave on Thursday for a week-long hermitage in Crestone, CO. It probably won't be until the 5th or 6th of July that I will have the opportunity to post again. So, you will just have to wait with bated breath for the next installment.
Blessings of peace and joy for your week.