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Posts Tagged ‘labyrinth’

His shadow is the answer!

Please note that this is my second posting for today.  Please go to the recent posting heading to the right and visit: “Stepping off the Bike and Into the Spiritual Mountains” if you did not read the earlier posting.  It explains where I am at.  The following are the product of a walk I took down and back up “The Mountain.”  I hope you enjoy!

Three Forms

My early morning breath

     Coffee fumes above the cup

Mounds of tainted snow

     Crunches under foot

Tear drops race down stalactites

     Streams trickle in the cracked roadside

Sun and still mountain air

Bring about transformations

The night will stop the process

And hide the dangers of ice

 

Insulation

 

Snow

Covers the landscape

Hides sleeping creatures

Protects the spring seeds

Snow

Covers the landscape

Deadens all sound

Echoes of my footsteps

Do not resonate

Water drops fall

From sun lit leaves

Borrow silently into

The covering

Snow

 

Words

 

Are these poems?

Are these musings?

Are these distractions?

Are these products

       Of an overactive mind?

Are these messages?

Are these reminders?

Are these answers

       To unknown questions?

Are these profound?

Are these wasted ink?

Are these meaningless questions?

Or

Are they simply moments of being?

 

Simple Observation

 

When the sun is up

Shadows are never black

They are always some hue

In later afternoon they are blue

 

Three Quarters of a Mile

 

Winding path

On the mountain side

Slow measured pace

Note pad and pen

Yields five poems

And deposits me at

The Labyrinth’s gate

 

No Cheating

 

Now there is a good sign!

The labyrinth

Covered in a pristine

Blanket of snow

No one cheated

Walking straight

To the stone obelisk

In the center

Spiritual insights

Spiritual wisdom

Must be achieved

By following the process

 

The Labyrinth

 

Wears a pristine

Winter cloak

Hides its rock outline

A cold stone bench

And four capped

Torch lights

The only indication

Of the outer circle

Today’s visit

One of admiration

A visit to the center

Will wait for another time

The forest spirit

Will understand

My respect

For winters work

Renewal is not yet here

Dormancy prevails

 

Wish I had my camera

 

I will have to carry

The image in my mind

Paint it for you with my words

Trust me

For I do not have the verbal hues

Or sufficient techniques

To convey the beauty

Or the serenity of

A rare moment

 

The Car

 

It slows down to pass me

It rocks with youthful energy and song

The chaperone lowers the window

And nodes toward my son

Seated in the back seat

“You owe me!” he exclaims

 

Pilgrim on the Path

 

I was going up

She was coming down

I was visiting

She was leaving work

We both agreed

This is a special place

To live or to visit

 

Always Amazed

 

I’d been too busy

Writing a blog

Watching the kids

And enjoying a nap

To take my usual walk

Down the mountain side

But I found time

As the teens visited town

And nature rewarded me

With a multitude of gifts

If I hadn’t been here

They would have

Just gone to waste

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 142                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 126

Today’s Mileage: 0                                          Total Trip Mileage: 996

Leaving prayers at the center!

Greetings everyone!  I am writing today’s blog from atop Little Scaly Mountain near Highlands North Carolina.  I am acting as a chaperone for a group of church teens who are attending a Youth Conference at the Mountain Retreat and Learning Center.

I had intended to blog on a Pilgrimage site in Daytona Beach yesterday, but sometimes life’s demands conspire against us.  Meetings and preparation for this trip occupied my day and my chaperone duties occupied the entire evening.  In addition, there is something about cold fresh mountain air that draws me into a state of deep sleep.

 Mountain Dining Hall Banner: “To embrace the diversity of life, creating an environment to energize people to work for positive change.”

“The Mountain” as we Unitarian Universalists of the South Eastern US call our church affiliated retreat center is literally housed on the top of a mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain range.  From the fire tower at night you can see lights from South Carolina and Georgia

Mountain Dining Hall Plaque: “We drink from wells we did not dig.  We are warmed by fires we did not build.”

I just left the “morning gathering” where the 100+ High School aged teens sang songs and prepared for a series of workshops that will occupy much of their day.  I retreated to the “library” where the energy and noise levels are more conducive to my writing today’s blog.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Energizing for Generations to come”

Meditation Rock!

I am one of those people where the solitude and serenity of nature is a powerful influence on my spirituality.  Nothing relaxes and inspires me like a walk through nature.  The Mountain has been a special place of spiritual renewal for me since I first discovered it, on a church retreat, some sixteen years ago.  I have acted as my church’s ambassador to the Mountain, given workshop and presentations for group retreats, accompanied church youth here for conferences, and most often just “dropped in” and stayed to hike, meditated, relax and create. The center is open to individual and groups of any faith or secular group.  The mountain embraces diversity and promotes positive and just social change.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Living Simply and Sustainably”

The Mountain has been a place I have come to: let go of painful relationships, write poetry, find inspirational images for my artwork, sort out my life goals, relax while visiting various waterfalls, walking the surrounding mountains and the labyrinth and reconnecting with nature.  One of my favorite stories was the time I visited during the winter.  I arrived and the staff announced that they were all going away for three day.  They left food in the Dining Hall fridge for me to eat.  I spent two days and three nights alone on the mountain top.  The serenity and sense of solitude, especially at night, as the wind blew and ice crystals danced in the noon light was profound.  I ended up discovering that I was not entirely alone, as I found rabbit tracks in the fresh snow!

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Embracing Diversity”

The Labyrinth at the base of the mountain contains an alter stone at its center where people leave offerings and mementos.  Among the items are two stones, one bears a painted yin-yang symbol the other the sacred Hindu symbol “Om.”  On the bottom of each stone is the name of my sons. I have carried them with me in my thoughts and prayers as I walked this sacred path.  I left each stone there that they might draw strength and serenity from these sacred mountains.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Being Just”

Before I leave today’s blog, it is nearing lunch time and I must rejoin my teens, I wanted to share with you a piece from the book: “Everyday Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao.  He writes about the mountains by saying:  “The ancient teachers took their students to the mountains, so that they could find inspiration in the high, sweeping vistas.  Each of them could take pleasure in the fresh air scented with pine and herbs.  None of them could fail to clear the mind of the toil and considerations of daily life.  From ancient times to the present, the mountains have been the best places to learn about Tao.  In the isolation of the mountains, with the voices of the throng stilled, the whispers of Tao could finally be heard.  This is what the ancients called the mountain spirit.”

Sunrise from the Fire Tower!

I am breathing in and relishing that mountain spirit.  I feel its presence refreshing and recharging my own spirit.  But it is now time that return to “the throng” with its infectious teen energy and youthful joy.  It is all part of the yin-yang dance of life!  Have a wonderful day!  I will return to our virtual journey and Daytona Beach tomorrow.

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!  For more information about the Mountain visit: http://www.mountaincenters.org

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  106                                                 Days Blogged: 96

New Mileage: 12                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 797

As I ride the bike this morning I’m thinking about the pilgrimage site we are visiting today. It’s the St. Leo Abby and Holy Name Monastery in St. Leo Florida. The site includes a monastery, a convent and an adjacent College. The site is manned by Benedictine monks and nuns. It overlooks a lake and offers beautiful grounds, including a grotto and college campus to walk, contemplate, pray and meditate. Like many of the retreat centers at the monasteries and convents, they offer the opportunity to spend the night and if you so desire, you can join the monks and nuns in their daily prayer and religious routines.

Thinking about this site brings back an important memory for me.  After I finished by first year of college, I took a summer job with a book company based in Nashville. They trained me to sell Student Handbooks (dictionaries) door to door. After a week of training they dropped me and my roommate off at a small rural northern Alabama town and drove away. It was suggested that we speak with a local church to ask if any church member might be able to “house” us for several weeks before we moved on to the next location. I asked my roommate which church he attended to which he responded “I’m Catholic” and I said “Me too!” As we sat in a small greasy-spoon diner, I asked the waitress: “Where is the local Catholic church?” She all but laughed in our faces, shaking her head as she exclaimed “Ain’t No Catholics in Blount County.” I sudden felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she exclaimed “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”

This sentiment was driven home even more profoundly when three weeks later, as I and a new roommate were told to move a couple of counties to the west and resume our sales. As we pulled into the new town I asked him which church do you belong to and of course he reported: “I’m Catholic.” I’m not one to give up on an idea without trying it a few times, so I checked the local phonebook. Much to my surprise, there was a Catholic monastery on the outskirts of the town. We drove there and spoke with the monk in charge. For the next two weeks we stayed in a simple, austere room with a marginally comfortable bed. We ate with the monks who were a pleasant and cheerful group. One humorous aspect of the experience was that no alcohol was allowed in the county. Yet the monks brewed their own beer in the basement of the monastery. On Saturday night each monk would use his personal mug to enjoy a few “cool ones,” mixed  with plenty of laughter.

I didn’t realize at the time, but this experience with the monks in this beautifully tranquil setting would plant a very important seed that would blossom into my future spirituality. In the years to come, as I travelled the world in the US Navy, I would come to experience and recognize the power of a contemplative approach toward spirituality. I would find solitude in nature and through meditation and I would come to recognize the deep well of creativity and wisdom residing at the core of my being. Only now do I realize that this chance meeting with a Monastery full of monks presented me with a glimpse of a tranquil solitary path to a deeper level of understanding. The priests and nuns who had populated my experiences at the church schools I attended, while well meaning, seemed more like task masters and overlords than models and guides. It would be in the Hindu and Buddhist temples of the East that this seed would take root and I would find my first spiritual teachers and ultimately, my inner guide.

St. Leo's Abby

As I have been conducting my search for pilgrimage sites and retreat centers I’ve come across many Catholic monasteries and convents. This makes sense given that the church has long recognized the importance of the inward focused, often solitary contemplative approach to spiritual journeys. During the dark ages in Europe it would be the monasteries and convents that were often the repository for knowledge where books were copied and housed. These facilities were often located in remote and isolated places to lessen the distractions of the world allowing for the residents’ endeavors to connect with the divine (mystically) or receive revelation through studies of the sacred scriptures.

Given these feelings, you can perhaps understand why I was “taken back” when my Google search of “contemplative spirituality” produced 10 references that all presented a negative view of the practice. It was described as wrong, evil, non-Christian and as a highly suspect movement towards mysticism. They specifically mention problems with the use of labyrinths, promoting pagan rituals, and of meditation, not involving the sacred scriptures.

In my last posting I spoke about the levels of analysis one can use when examining examples of religious behavior. We can use a form/substance level of analysis or we can analyze it on the functional level. As I look at this criticism directed toward contemplative spirituality I see that all 10 of the references make use of the form/substance level of analysis. They do not believe the contemplative approach fits what they define as the “true religion.” It doesn’t quote the “correct” sacred scripture or make reference to a valid source of truth in their view. I take a functional approach toward this issue. When I see people walking a labyrinth, sitting in quiet prayer or meditation, writing a poem, creating an artwork, or walking quietly along a river, I recognize all of these as functioning as forms of prayer. All can represent forms of connectedness with parts of themselves, with the world about them, and with something greater than ourselves.

I point out to my students that the theory we use to make sense of the world can have significant consequences for ourselves and others around us. If you use a form and substance analysis you often label behaviors and rituals as true or false, or right and wrong. If you take a functional approach you often end up seeing many diverse behaviors and rituals as meeting the same function for different individuals or groups and that’s OK. Just as the world is made up of people with different tastes for food, different preferences for cars, and different ideas about politics so too the world is made up of people who experience the divine and connect with the divine in different ways and that’s OK! 

Sunset at the Abby lake!

If you would like to visit the Abby’s webpage please click on the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this posting.

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