Monday, March 18, 2013

Ready to jump off

Time to bite the bullet, take the next step and do what God has been hinting at for weeks, months, years: Offer my spiritual-nurture sessions publicly. I've honed them in private, given them in Quaker settings and planned for months to expand them in my studio.

The mask-making and labyrinth workshops were great introductions and, of course, Artsy Fartsy has stretched me. For some reason, though, I have been dragging my feet on these sessions. It's because I am afraid. These really expose me, my vulnerability, the-sometimes-difficult places I've traveled and it's not the sort of thing people jump into easily. Now, anyone who's participated in the workshops, retreats and groups is often surprised at how the creative bent helps them open to deeper spaces and explore some tougher spots in themselves.

I well remember the night-of-the-dark soul three-hour a day, five-day workshop I helped facilitate about six years ago with a gifted Quaker friend. She wanted an art component and I was enthusiastic. I joked that, perhaps, she could have selected a lighter subject. The first day, I doled out baggies full of moist clay and we did a meditation with it with our eyes closed. It wasn't mandatory and everyone complied, though some complained that it was dirty. My daughters, 6 and 9 at the time and who accompanied me to the gathering, thought it was funny anyone would worry that clay sullied their hands. That evening as they were helping me prep for the next day, one of them scrawled something like this on the classroom chalkboard: "Don't be afraid to get dirty or make art, just do it."

I had forgotten about it until several people were amused by the affirmation and said it opened them. Well, then it became a nightly ritual ... that the girls would leave little phrases each time for the class the next day. It had am amazing effect on all of us.

Almost a year-and-a-half ago, I began a 16-week series, broken over two sessions, of teaching from the book that I will someday publish. The workshops and the book are both called: "Turtlebox Stories: Nurturing the Divine Within." This was a small, but dedicated group. Each session focused on a chapter of the book, which is a specific movement within a spiritual journey; anything from pain to prayer, desolation to gratitude and many in between. Pain is the first session and I was somewhat nervous about starting there, but it is what launched my journey and that of so many others – whether we care to admit it or not. So we talked about how our culture avoids pain. It stirred childhood memories of spiritual woundedness and curiosity about God. After this gentle exploration, alternating among discussion, silence, imagery meditation and affirmation, it was clear we all shared pain in our wanderings. Speaking it safely bonded the group.

So, beginning in April on Thursdays evenings, I will show up and faithfully offer this series publicly – that's the clincher for me. I plan to advertise it within my Quaker Meeting, neighborhood, among friends, acquaintances, the two churches next to my studio and the community at large and we'll see who God brings in!

I think this is how I will start the materials I send out:
Ever wanted to:
– Mix spiritual yearnings and creativity?
– Share experiences, fears or ideas about the Universe/God/Spirit in a safe, non-judging context with others?
– Deepen your creativity with a spiritual bent?
– Be part of a small group whee you feel heard, affirmed and nurtured?

And I'll add these comments from past participants:
• "... a journey of discovery and reconnection, where time stood still and we had the gift of really paying attention. We walked in candlelight, drew with our eyes closed, built our own souls, shared then and laughed out loud."
• "Those peaceful retreats full of love and fellowship deeply enriched my journey ... each unique session revealed new insight that gently opened my soul."
• "A delightful surprise for me. Sessions were spiritually stimulating and appealed to our seeking spirit in different ways each time we met. Downright good fun too. Just show up and participate."

• When have I been afraid to take the next step?
• Why?
• How did I overcome my fear?
• When I have followed, where has God led?
• What's my current next step?

a deep breath
cleanses the fear

and I understand
it is time

time to do God's
work that has
also become mine

time to exercise
my ministry and
share it more widely

and pray that
I can accept
the response

with gratitude
and no judgment

now, I am
ready to jump off

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