Pilgrimage, wander

“A pilgrimage is not a journey toward transformation…but a transforming journey.” – Jonathan Omer-Man

Solvitur ambulando /ˈsɒlvɪtər ˌæmbjʊˈlændoʊ/ is a Latin term which means: It is solved by walking.

Sometimes, the journey itself is the destination. It doesn’t matter where you go – just that you go. Get moving. Get going. Moving at all is healthy, for body, mind, and soul.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” – Bruce Lee

Stomach distress?

I’m noticing that many people right now are experiencing stomach distress.  They believe they have the flu or some virus.  I believe that their distress is unprocessed emotions related to the current political climate in the United States, which isn’t very “united” right now.

Many people were very surprised by the results of the election, and held out hopes that something unusual would happen to change it.  They waited until after the Electoral College voted to admit that their fears had been realized.  Now they are protesting everything that they are learning about.  People who were politically inactive before are now glued to whatever news they can get.

What you focus on expands.  What you think about, you are. If all you focus on is bad, that is all you will see.  Anger and fear leads to more of the same.

Life is all about choice.  You have a choice as to what you read or do or think, but first you must become aware.  You must become mindful of what is going on at the deepest level.

The stomach processes some of our most basic emotions – fear, anger, grief.  We feel things “at a gut level”.  We are “gutted” when something terrible happens.  Our stomach not just processes food, but feelings.  Our entire body is a sensory organ, and each unique organ receives and processes external stimuli in unique ways.  We accept that we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but few people are yet able to understand that we have many other senses that are registered throughout the amazing gift of our corporeal forms.

When we are unable or unwilling to accept the reality of the messages that our bodies are sending us, we start to think that the messages ARE us.  We are able to understand that what we see through our eyes is simply a vision.  It is an observed phenomenon.  If we see a bird in flight, it does not mean that we are a bird.  Likewise, it is important to separate the sensations we experience through our other body parts from our selves, our being.  We do not have to be angry when we feel anger.  It is just a feeling, a sensation.

The purpose of being awakened isn’t to feel joyful all the time.  The purpose is to feel – everything – in a mindful and detached way.  You are not the feeling – you are feeling the feeling, just like you are seeing the birds fly above you.

It helps to be rooted in a faith that there is a guiding force that is over all things.  Having faith that the political leaders are not the true leaders is healthy and healing.

You must take care of your body in order to take care of your spirit.  There is nothing new here – diet and exercise count now more than ever.  Make healthy food choices.  Stress eating, eating “comfort food”, will bring your body and spirit down. Get regular exercise.  Just going for a short walk every day is excellent.  More is better.  Don’t overdo it, though, because that becomes a distraction.  It is important to be present.

Learn to be OK with sitting still in silence.  The need to constantly be busy is an addictive behavior the same as smoking cigarettes or drinking. Substance abuse isn’t just about drugs, but anything and everything. Doing anything mindlessly can be harmful to your body and spirit.

Having to check social media, read a book, or do chores can all be distractions.  Balance is what is necessary here. It is good to read a book – but if you feel anxiety if you are without one, then it is time to sit with that feeling and listen to it.  It is a sign that you feel a need to escape.  Use your feelings, regardless of what they are, to learn.  Do not run from “bad” feelings – they are trying to teach you that something is out of balance in your life.

Instead of protesting – of saying what you are against, spend your energy on building up.  What are you for?  What will bring healing to your community?  Who is hurting? Who is marginalized?  Go help them.  Go be a force for good.  Do what you can with what you have.  Your little efforts count.  Join with others to do more.  Don’t wait for the government to help – those times are over.  Be the change you wish to see.  Teach an immigrant child how to read and write.  Learn a foreign language.  Build a home for a homeless person. Teach a class on money management. Learn nonviolent conflict resolution.

Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.  Spend more time on figuring out how you can do something instead of coming up with excuses for why you can’t.  Don’t blame others for your own choices.

Possessed by drugs

If you get caught with drugs, you are charged with possession. But I believe it would be more accurate to say that you should be diagnosed with possession. You are possessed.

You don’t do drugs. Drugs do you. They act upon you quietly and insidiously. They end up taking over your life. They don’t enhance it – they take away from it.

Perhaps if we saw drug use as possession we would be able to actually treat it for a change. We would no longer see it as a lack of willpower but as a dangerous force that takes up residence inside you and makes you do things that you wouldn’t normally do.

It is important to understand that this doesn’t start off as a passive action. You, sober, make the first move. You, sober, are the one who first starts using drugs. They don’t have a hold of you at that point. So you have control at the beginning.

This is the same as with possession.  You have to allow that demon into your soul for it to harm you.  Once you do, you are in big trouble.  Just like with drugs, you’re in over your head very fast.

Age limits?

Our society is doomed.  We either are raising children who are too stupid to have common sense, or we are overly litigious.  Both indicate the failure of people to take personal responsibility for their lives and think ahead before they do anything.

Check this out.

age1

This is for a credit-card sized magnifier with a light.  Seems simple enough, right?  Yet it is “Not recommended for children under 12.”  What is so dangerous about it that it can’t be used by a child who is 10? Or 6?

And this, discovered on the same day.  age2age3

 

It is a scarf (emblazoned with the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter) that is for ages 14 and up.

What world have we found ourselves in (or created) that 13 year old  people can’t wear a scarf safely?  Or 12? Or even 8?   Sure, I can see a very young child might get tied up in it and choke himself. But only for 14 and up?

Perhaps you recall seeing these?

age8age11

Why would anyone think it would be a good idea to put their child in an enclosed plastic tub?  If you anyone is that dumb, doesn’t the Darwin award come into effect?

And if humans are so inept that we can drown in a few inches of water in a bucket, then why are we even still around?  Baby animals can take care of themselves far better than humans can very soon after being born.  Kittens can live independently at 6 weeks of age.  Meanwhile, humans can’t be left alone until they are at least 12, and that is only for a few hours.  Some can’t even support themselves at 50 and still live in their parent’s basements.

There are other warning labels around, to advise against hurting yourself. Here’s some great ones about fingers and hands.

age10age9

Here are ones that are sarcastic.

age4age6age7age5

Monastery Immaculate Conception

150 Sisters of Saint Benedict live in community in Ferdinand, Indiana.  Here are some pictures I took when I went on a silent retreat there.

I hope you are in good shape if you go there.  The dormitory is downhill from everything else – dining hall, the chapel…and there are over 70 steps to get there.

There is a way to get where you need to go if the weather is bad.  There can be some pretty impressive snowfalls in Indiana, so there are tunnels all over this complex. They can be a bit damp, however.

Here’s one of the places you are headed to – the dining hall.  The food is served cafeteria style, and guests and nuns eat the same food.  They keep a separate eating area for us so we can be silent. The nuns are quite chatty and amiable, and while that is nice, it is hard if you are trying to have a silent retreat.

dining1

Some scenes in the dormitory.

In my room, I made  little votive shrine of the saint cards I bought at the gift shop.  All churches should have gift shops, in my opinion, and the Catholics do not disappoint in this regard.

icons1

In the basement is a lounge area with a lot of recliners.  It is quite homey and inspires naps.  I wonder if the chairs came from the nuns when they entered and had to give up all their possessions?

There is a statue of a young Mary with Jesus in the basement dining area – I’ve seen the same statue, painted, at a Sisters of Mercy convent.

There are some other interesting things in the dormitory that seem very old.

The various services were quite confusing.  We were fortunate that the nuns understood and took the time to set up our prayer books for us so we could follow along without getting lost.  They recite the office of the hours several times a day. Note all the different bookmarks – this is for just one service.

 

inside7

The pews were cleverly designed – you could create your own bookstand. This is closed, and then open.

Here is the pew-side view of the service.  The nun who helped us at this one is sitting in front of me on the right.  They no longer wear their habits. But you can still tell they are nuns by their kindness.  They have a sort of inner glow.

More of their impressive chapel – the baptismal font is the first thing you notice (on purpose).  Ideally, it is always in line with the table where the Lord’s supper is celebrated. This unites the two sacraments.

 

Views from outside the chapel, and the grounds.

I was especially enamored of this corner, and took the time to sketch it. It looks a little strange broken up like this, but I didn’t know my phone could do panoramas at this point. While sketching, some nuns noticed me and started to ask me questions.  They thought that I should stay with them.  I’m not sure how that would work out since I’m married, not a Catholic, and past their age requirement for entry. But it was kind of them to see a calling in me.

 

 

Private places

There are places at St. Meinrad’s Archabbey that are most certainly off limits.  They spell it out with signs, saying that you are not welcome in this area.

 

There was one area that had a sign and a frosted glass window.

chapter house 2

 

 

But there was a clear spot higher up, so I just held up my camera.

chapter house1

 

There is a lock on the holy oil vials, presumably to keep you from accidentally anointing yourself, or from desecrating it.  Wonder why these vials are on public display then, if they are not for public use?  To show off how pretty they are? These were prominently displayed at the center of the Abbey.

oil2

 

There are enclosed gardens that I wanted to explore.  I saw them on Google Maps before I went there and looked forward to going.  There were not open to lay people, however.  But there were windows, so I took pictures. I was sad to see them not even being used by the monks.  These beautiful gardens, alone, locked away, unappreciated.  Perhaps the monks stare at them from their rooms, while they are locked away from the world they are called to serve?

 

They even tried to block the view with signs like this.

3

But I found a way around it.  These pictures are taken through the glass.

 

Monasticism as it is practiced was not mentioned by Jesus at all. Living together, sharing resources, sharing lives – yes.  It is good for all to work together for the common good.  However, he did not intend that we were to separate ourselves from the world entirely.  When we work together and share what we have, we are stronger people, better able to help others.  However, when we focus all of our energy inwards to the group, we defeat the purpose of what Jesus calls us to do.

 

With all these signs, I was continuously reminded of the “us and them” approach the Catholic church has to life in general – either you are “in” (a Catholic) or “out” (either not Christian, or just not Catholic).  The most obvious example of this is with their approach to communion.  This exclusionary practice is not Christ-like, and will turn more people away from the message of Jesus than they could ever imagine.

 

Interestingly, I spent time at their “sister” community, just down the road a few months later.  The Sisters of Saint Benedict have a community in Ferdinand, IN, called Monastery Immaculate Conception.  I walked all over that place and only saw one sign saying “private”.  In fact, the nun who took us on a tour of the place told us we could sit in that area if we wanted.  I’m pretty sure I accidentally wandered into some areas I shouldn’t have, but nobody got upset with me.  Their monastery was older, a little shabbier.  It was obvious that their “brothers” got more money and better resources.  But the Sisters were far more kind and welcoming, always helpful and kind, with open smiles.

Persistence

I love finding trees that grow around obstacles.

The ones that I find the most are hackberry trees.  They are considered “junk” trees – large weeds, a nuisance.  Normally they are scraggly bushes, but when you cut them, they sprout out even more branches, like a hydra.  Your choice then is to let it grow as is, or to dig it up.

Here is one I found at a Persian restaurant off White Bridge Road in Nashville.  The restaurant (Hot Kabobs) is not there anymore, but I bet this tree is.  Look how it has grown around the chain link fence.

p2p3p1

 

Here is one at the Mercy Convent in Donelson.  There is a back part of the property, next to a farm.  This is not part of the normal area for retreats, but I was on a wander.  There was a metal wire that was used to show where the property line is, and this tree has grown around it.

 

p5p4

 

Soon it will have totally wrapped around it.