Am Neckar: The River as Soul’s Companion

As I have recently found a spirit guide in the Great Blue Heron (see previous entry), water has long been an elemental spiritual presence for me.  Waters are symbolic of baptism, of cleansing and renewal.  I have been a long time away from water, too.  The following is a meditation I wrote while living in Germany back in February of 2002.  I would walk along the banks of the Neckar River in Tuebingen.  The water became a place of comfort, a friend to me at a time when I was walking a lonely path with many questions on my heart…

Neckar River

O still river, how long it ha been since I have seen your waters gently flow by.  How good it feels to sit here next to you, observing your nature.  The long days have made me weary and you are at present my only friend.  You understand me and speak to me in ways that others cannot.  I see my true self through the reflection from your waters.  You sustain me, you guide me and you give me life.  And today, when the life has been sucked away from me, I come to you to be renewed.  I come to sit at your banks and wash away the dirt from my face.  As still as you are right now, I feel the power within your soul; I feel the power within my soul.  And when our time together comes to an end, I take with me the images I see before me, so I can return to them in my dreams.  Forever you will flow, forever you will be and forever I will be in you.  O River of Life, I fall on my knees…I remember my baptism in your waters and I ask forgiveness.  I leave your presence, a Child of God, renewed and cleansed.  I look forward to the next time we shall meet.  It may be here or in another place far off, but your waters are eternal and will never change.

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‘Tween the Dark Night and Depression

What is the difference between depression and “dark night of the soul”?

I could post academically minded words about St. John of the Cross (a Carmelite mystic of the 16th century) and his writing, “Dark Night of the Soul” and compare/contrast that with a clinical definition of depression, but that would not suffice.  No, I dare to share the imagery from my own mind as means to express the spiritual dimensions of depression and the dark night of the soul.  I have experienced both.

This is a blog of a spiritual director, a wandering woman in search of self and home.  Then so be it that deeper spaces be publicly explored.  Besides, St. John of the Cross’ feast day is soon: December 14th.  Happy feast of St. John of the Cross…

You see, for me, December—even amidst all the beauty it beholds in wintertime festivities, the contemplative nature of Advent, and the tradition of Christmas time—sometimes brings with it transition, dark days, and depression.  Three times in my life has it been so intense that I have written the visions that have come through meditation, prayer, and during my waking hours.

Continue reading “‘Tween the Dark Night and Depression”

unfolding: a journey of discovery, beginning, and ending…

This morning I had the first class of the last quarter at the School of Theology and Ministry. The class, Spirituality Synthesis, is going to be a wonderful end to my degree. I’d like to share an image (from my own photography) that came to me during a guided meditation. In fact, the guided meditation was about being in a rose garden and finding a bud…how interesting that I had such an experience back in January during the fabulous week of clear weather. I live near the Woodland Park Zoo, and was on a day-long journey one Sunday with some dear friends. It all began in the rose garden just outside the zoo entrance and led me from sunrise to sunset; at the rose garden and through the Fremont neighborhood…

January Bloom

In a way, this is where I am at: emerging from a winter spirituality and dark days into new life, a bud ready to unfold again, to live into the resurrection. I am discovering and rediscovering my gifts and where I might use them in my life ahead both in the present and the time after graduation. With joy and anxiety, I approach the end of my MA in Transforming Spirituality degree as both an ending and beginning. Unlike most of my classmates who approach the end, I want to leave (note: they are mostly middle-aged). The School of Theology and Ministry has been a transformative experience for me, and yet the majority of my life has been identified through the eyes of being a student.

Well, I’m ready to be done. Ready to leave behind academia and explore. I’m still a young adult, I am a world traveler, and I am not married. So how shall I unfold? That, I am waiting to find out…so here I go, plunging into the vast possibilities…

Walking Meditation, with camera

Walking was just the spiritual practice I needed on Saturday. Pike Place Market is one of my favorite spots in the city to go and walk. On Saturday I walked meditatively through Pike Place listening, observing, tasting, smelling…the market is a fascinating place to be. Tourists swarm all year round, flocking to the famous market, cameras ready for flying fish and the storefront of the first Starbucks. I go for inspiration–to smell fresh flowers, fruit, and fish all at once; to hear four languages spoken in the same space; to watch the flow of people in a small area; to hear the song of a street performer; and to walk freely, without expectation.

Some people practice meditation via walking. This is a good way to exercise the spirit and come back into an awareness of the body. For me, I occasionally do something additional to this form of prayer: I bring along a camera (or two). I alert my body and mind to the world around me, using my senses. With the camera I intuitively look for beauty and signs of God’s presence–or just snap away at something that catches my eye.

Here are a few scenes that caught my eye on Saturday…

famous fish throwers     street performer    berries      honestly good music

A Spirituality of the Atmosphere

This summer during a course titled “Ecological Spirituality”, I reunited with my spiritual connection to the atmosphere. On the first day of class, we were randomly assigned to one of four groups, represented by the elements–water, fire, earth, and air. Upon my assignment to air, my mind immediately pictured a large low pressure system and its boundaries of warm and cold air, mixing high in the upper atmosphere. Meteorological terms such as troposphere, millibar, and occluded front danced in my thoughts. I was returned to the first year and a half of my undergraduate study as a meteorology major…before the calculus strangled me and I switched to German.

But this summer I made an important connection to the past, blending my love for weather and insights gained from my brief study of the atmosphere with my current path as spiritual director. This connection was shared in class, and then classmate pointed me to the Cloud Appreciation Society. This led me to revisit my old meteorology textbook where I made an interesting discovery–the beginning of the first chapter (most likely meant to entice readers into learning about the atmosphere) read, to me, like a meditation.

And that’s just what I did. So below I have pasted the meditation I adapted from the textbook as part of my group’s presentation in class.

Denali Clouds

Let us become aware of our breath, and to the air you take into your lungs. Breathe in the presence of the Spirit…

Living on the surface of the earth, we have adapted so completely to our environment of air that we sometimes forget how truly remarkable this substance is. Our atmosphere is a delicate life-giving blanket of air that surrounds the fragile earth. It protects us from the scorching rays of the sun and provides us with a mixture of gasses that allows life to flourish. Between your eyes and the person near you are trillions of air molecules. Some of these may have been in a cloud only yesterday or over another continent last week, or perhaps part of the live-giving breath of a person who lived hundreds of years ago.

Give thanks for the timeless breath of our Creator God.

The earth without an atmosphere would have no lakes or oceans. There would be no sounds, no clouds, no red sunsets, no rainbows. The beautiful pageantry of the sky and poetry of clouds would be absent. It would be unimaginably cold at night and unbearably hot during the day. All Creation would be at the mercy of an intense sun beating down upon a planet utterly parched.

Give thanks for the ecological diversity on the planet.

Air influences everything we see and hear—it is intimately connected to our lives. Air is with us from our birth until our last breath, and we cannot detach our selves from its presence. In the open air, we can travel for man thousands of miles in any horizontal direction, but should we move a mere five miles above the surface, we would suffocate. We may be able to survive without food for a few weeks, or without water for a few days, but, without our atmosphere, we would not survive more than a few minutes. Just as fish are confined to an environment of water, so we are confined to an ocean of air. Anywhere we go, it must go with us.

Give thanks for the sustaining, life-giving air. Amen.

*Text adapted from a meteorology textbook: Essentials of Meteorology: An Invitation to the Atmosphere by C Donald Ahrens (2nd edition; text from page 2).