Sunday, January 16, 2011

A News paper and Two more Heart Cards

Friday morning I stopped at my local convenience store for The Star. It is a tiny independent store and the gentleman behind the counter is Middle Eastern. I always buy my paper there, and when the LotoMax is sufficiently tempting, a lottery ticket. On Friday I walked in, saw the empty Star stand and then noticed that an elderly gentleman at the counter had the last paper. "So you've got my paper," I joked with him. He finished paying for his lottery tickets and paper (it's that kind of place) and replied, "Well, the early bird catches the worm young lady." I liked him immediately. Then my friend behind the counter jumped in to say that he had one more paper hidden behind the counter and I could have it. The old guy just smiled as I paid for my tickets and paper. As I paid the owner explained that he always saves a paper for "Doc". If there are only one or two papers left and Doc hasn't been in yet, he takes the papers and keeps them behind the counter. That's what I love about living in community. Simple gestures of kindness.
Due to the early hour I didn't have any dakbands on, but I delivered them later in the day. It was such a great exchange.

Saturday morning, believe it or not, the exact same thing happened. I've been buying my paper there for years and never run into Doc, now two days in a row I am lucky enough to get my newspaper fix because of him - maybe that luck will rub off on the lottery tickets. I'm afraid however that Doc probably thinks I'm stalking him - and young or not, I'm not sure how he feels about that :)

Here are two more Heart Cards:

I really like the idea of 'adding more joy to your day'. It reminds us that joy is something we are responsible for creating. We can add joy, create joy - make our days, and the days of others more joyful. Kindness creates joy.

When we really believe in something, we usually take some kind of action, or get involved. That's why it's so important to 'believe in healing'. Whether it's our own physical, spiritual, or emotional healing, or that of someone else, believing in that healing will engage us, get us involved, force us to take steps toward that healing. Belief isn't wishing, it's action.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today's Heart Cards

I think being creative, letting your creativity shine, is really about balance. When we ignore our creative side - and we all have one - at the expense of work, or busyness, or fatigue, our soul begins to suffer. Creativity can be as simple as play, or even giving our imagination reign in a wonderful book. Let your creativity shine today.

And when I think of beauty, I pay attention to detail. Finding beauty in the small details of life. Beauty, I believe, is very much related to gratitude. So what you are thankful for becomes beautiful. (Which reminds me to continue my 1000 gifts of gratitude!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carolin's Heart Cards

On the morning of the 31st (yes, I'm still going on about New Year's :) I picked up my good friend Carolin - community gardener, massage therapist, artist, extraordinaire - whom I've blogged about here and here, before my morning coffee. It was worth it though because she gifted me with the most beautiful set of hand made (her hands) Heart Cards. Each of the 28 cards is a collage framed on a heart theme, then the collage is photocopied onto card stock and she lovingly hand cuts them into 10cm by 13cm cards. To finish, the back of each card is hand stamped with a heart. She explained that she thought of the idea while visiting me in the hospital in the spring (look at the previous post and you'll see how she decorated my hospital room with hand painted hearts - people I didn't even know were coming into my room just to see the hearts!). The idea is to turn the stack of cards face down, fan them out, and then intuitively choose a card. That card is your focus/thought for the day.

So I've decided to share Carolin's kindness and inspire you with two of her cards every day for the next 14.5 days.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Walking The Labyrinth

As promised, I'll continue my post from yesterday about my New Year's experience at The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine convent.

Here is the program we followed:
Friday, December 31
9:00 am Registration, refreshments
10:00 am First Retreat Session: Celebrating the Past - A Blessed History
12:00 noon Eucharist followed by silent dinner
3:00 pm Second Retreat Session: Visioning the Future - Your New Year
5:00 pm Silent Supper
7:00 pm New Year's Eve Vigil
7:30 pm Third Retreat Session: Finding your symbol in the Labyrinth
9:00 pm New Year's Eve refreshments

Saturday, January 1
8 - 9:00 am Silent Breakfast
9:00 am Morning Prayer
10:00 am Final Retreat Session: Sharing the Light
11:30 am Eucharist followed by talking dinner
1:30 pm departures

General Retreat Rules:
- there is no obligation to participate in any of agenda items
- no cell phones, alcohol, drugs or smoking in the Guest House
- silence in all sleeping areas
- spirit of quiet throughout the building
- Talking in the Conference Room, sitting rooms (with door closed), or outdoors
- meals are silent except for New Year's Day dinner

The balance of silence and talking was perfect. I'd never participated in a silent meal before, and it is quite a unique experience. I found it forced me to eat more consciously. At the end of the meal one of the sisters rings a bell, as a signal that the meal is finished. Everyone stands and says a brief thanksgiving. It was just one of the many enlightenments I enjoyed.

One of the highlights for me was walking the Labyrinth on New Year's Eve. The convent has a beautiful, eleven sided, stone Labyrinth modeled after the labyrinth at Chartres. Each stone in the labybrinth was laid with prayer and the sacredness can be felt upon approach. Before we entered the labyrinth, C.J. (our retreat leader) gave us all some notes on how to use the labyrinth prayerfully, meditatively. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no dead ends. There is one path into and out of the center. As you walk the path, you move closer to, and further away from the center. The center of the labyrinth can symbolize the goal of your life, God's heart, the center of the world - anything you want it to. Once you reach the center, you can stay there for as long as is needed. It is a place to focus, savour, release, connect with all of your senses, receive grace and enlightenment. The inward path and the outward path are opportunities of reflection. It is a personal journey. Some questions we were encouraged to ask ourselves as we made the journey included: What am I thankful for, what do I bring with me to the labybrinth, what am I leaving at the center, what am I taking away with me, what causes me to alter my path, is there a symbol that might represent this journey?

Despite the rain, almost everyone at the Retreat walked the Labyrinth. The following day, New Year's Day, we shared our experiences during the last session. The stories were profoundly moving. Some people created artwork that represented the symbol they received during their journey. Each piece of art and story was a gift of inspiration.

The opening of the New Year was kind and gentle to us all.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I've Escaped!

I'm sitting at Starbucks, a place I usually try to avoid working at, due to my deep coffee addiction appreciation; but, I just had to get away from the kids out of the house. If you all haven't noticed it is already January 4th and I haven't been able to carve out a moment to share my New Years thoughts or my experience at the convent. I really, really, love my children, and now that their Christmas break is almost over, I'm really, really, happy to announce that they are both going back to their respective schools in just a few days (I'm certain that they are just as happy). So now that I have some space to think - I wouldn't exactly say that I have 'peace and quiet' here - without someone shouting, "MOM", I can get caught up.

So to begin, I want to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, 2011.

For me, as the New Year approached I found myself becoming increasingly anxious. 2010 was a rough year, my diagnosis of apical ventricular cardiomyopathy and subsequent four surgeries pushed me into unknown, and frightening territory. I wanted to make the end of 2010, and the beginning of 2011 meaningful, significant - thus, the anxiousness. So, it seemed like Divine intervention when I came across the article in The Star, Spending New Year's Eve with the nuns. And that's what I did.

I arrived at the convent, The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, at 10 am on the morning of the 31st and I left on New Year's Day at noon. My experience was everything I hoped for, and more. It was contemplative, restorative, inspiring, and gave me an intense experience of community. There were about 30 of us sharing a profound hope for a kind New Year. We came in all shapes, sizes, colours, ages, sexual orientations, and yet we all arrived with our experiences of 2010 seeping out of us unconsciously, begging for release. Sister Constance Joanna (CJ) guided us wisely, compassionately, through that release, and onto a vision for a New Year that expressed and embraced the hope that united such an unlikely group of individuals. During the retreat sessions held in the conference room our stories spilled out, but everywhere else in the convent, including meal times, we were committed to silence. A perfect balance. Silence and sharing.

Over the next few days I'll continue to write about the experience, share some photos, share the agenda of the retreat, and hopefully I'll be able to capture the emotion that we all experienced while walking the Labrynth, but for now, it's back to "MOM". My quiet time is over for today.